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Effective Altruism: If Only We ALL Practiced It

By Shlomo Maital

   Altruism is defined as a philosophy of doing good for others. It is an admirable change-the-world framework for living. But is it enough?   Philosopher Peter Singer (in a superb TED talk – you can look it up) proposes effective altruism – which applies evidence, logic and reason to find the most effective and efficient ways to help others.   Yes, do good – and do it in the most powerful impactful way, by carefully planning what and how you do.

     Singer’s example: a seeing eye dog costs $40,000 to train, and to teach the blind person how to make best use of it. Highly worthy. But millions in poor countries are blind, due to trachoma and cataracts – both of which are curable and fixable. You could bring sight to perhaps 200 blind people with the resources used to train one guide dog. Altruism is providing seeing eye dogs. Effective altruism is weighing the best use of those resources.

       Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have given billions to medical charities. Gates’ Foundation has saved an estimated 5 million lives – and enriched the lives of millions more – by rigidly applying effective altruism to their resources and projects, focusing on illnesses that are widespread, afflict the poor, and that can be cured or mitigated. Like malaria.

       What if millions of people worldwide would embrace altruism? And then, what if we could supply a very simple straightforward set of guidelines, about how to be efficient in our altruistic behavior? Our time, resources and energy are limited. How can we do the most good with them?   And even before asking those questions – how can the notion of ‘effective altruism’ be ‘sold’ to the masses?

         Today everything is becoming ‘evidence-based’. Perhaps doing good for others, too, should be more evidence-based.   When we combine the powerful emotion of giving, and the impactful logic of rational decision-making, the result can be immensely beneficial to humanity.

 

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Paul E. Singer and U.S. Hedge Fund Rules the World (And May Destroy It)

By Shlomo  Maital

           Singer

 If you believe as I do that increasingly, money rules the world, not ethics, policies, governments, or ordinary people,  then this week you got confirming decisive evidence.

  A hedge fund manager named Paul E. Singer, right-wing libertarian and Republican, who runs Elliott Management, a $25 billion hedge fund,  bought up large amounts of Argentine government bonds after Argentina defaulted on its bonds in 2001 (because the IMF wanted to impose stringent conditions on a bailout loan, a huge mistake).    Then he went into U.S. District Court in Manhattan (like a fixed prizefight, he got to choose the venue most convenient and most likely to get a favorable decision) and won a decision from a judge, stating: “unless Argentina pays up the face value of bonds bought by Singer, it cannot legally pay interest on its bonds to its main bondholders”. 

   The result:  Because a $539 million interest payment was not made (it could not be made, because of that District Court Judge, who by the way is ELECTED!), by Argentina,  S&P rating agency declared Argentina in default.  This likely means that the government of Argentina is barred from raising capital in global capital markets.   Argentina’s economy is in recession,   in large part due to the Sterling law suit.  You cannot run any business, or any country, without borrowing money in capital markets.

    Singer has won.  Argentina and its 41 million people lose, and so does the world. Why?  Because investor panic regarding Argentina will impact other nations, like Portugal, and make their borrowing more expensive. 

    Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has made many mistakes.  But this time, the villain is not her but Singer.   And America, whose courts allow him to do whatever he wants for personal gain, damn the whole world.

     If we do not get control of our lives and our money  back from capitalists like Singer,  some day Occupy Wall St. will seem like a kindergarten birthday party.  

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
September 2019
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