When British doctor Greg Lewis felt called to contribute more to the world, he looked into leaving the U.K. to serve less fortunate patients. That seemed a better way to do good than working in a pristine hospital.
But when he crunched the numbers, they told a different story. By treating patients in a poor country, he calculated he might save four lives per year. By choosing a specialty at home and working toward an annual salary of $200,000, he could donate up to half to a charity providing antimalarial bed nets–helping stop infection in the first place and saving dozens of lives per year. As William MacAskill explains in his forthcoming book, Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and How You Can Make a Difference, Lewis chose to earn in order to give.
MacAskill takes an irreverent approach to the rules of charity, suggesting that impulsive altruism can often do more harm than good. Boycotting brands that use sweatshops, for example, risks putting workers out of much-needed jobs with better conditions than they would otherwise find. Choosing where and how much to give should be “a scientific approach,” he writes.
It’s also a choice that should become a priority for corporations, Matthieu Ricard argues. In his new book, Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World, the French author (and Buddhist monk) contends that investing in altruism can actually help a bottom line. After Johnson & Johnson started a health initiative, for example, two-thirds of its smoker employees quit cigarettes–saving the company $250 million in health care bills.
More Must-Reads From TIME
- Inside the White House Program to Share America's Secrets
- Meet the 2024 Women of the Year
- East Palestine, One Year After Train Derailment
- The Closers: 18 People Working to End the Racial Wealth Gap
- Long COVID Doesn’t Always Look Like You Think It Does
- Column: The New Antisemitism
- The Best Romantic Comedies to Watch on Netflix
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time
Contact us at email@example.com