Professor Jennifer C. Rubenstein discusses the promises and pitfalls of Effective Altruism, including what she calls the movement’s “hidden curriculum.” Rubenstein’s review essay on this topic appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Ethics & International Affairs.
In this essay, Rubenstein examines two recent books by Peter Singer and William MacAskill on the philosophy and philanthropic movement known as Effective Altruism (EA). She addresses both the promise and limitations of EA—whose proponents seek to do the “most good”—arguing that a “hidden curriculum” underlies its teachings.
Deng Xiaoping once said, “Let some get rich first, the others will follow.” This is Angus Deaton’s basic view in The Great Escape. Deaton, cowinner of the Leontief Prize in 2014 and winner of the Nobel Prize in 2015, chronicles the rise of almost all of humanity out of conditions of widespread hunger, disease, destitution, and premature death, and into a world where infant and child mortality has fallen sharply, and where heart diseases and even cancers are declining.
By 2009 the reckless greed of subprime mortgage lenders in the United States had become clear. Housing prices had collapsed by 30 percent or more, and families, unable to keep up with their ballooning mortgage payments, were being forced from their homes.
On September 25, 2015, the world’s leaders adopted a new suite of development goals—the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—that are to guide policymakers for the next decade and a half. On first inspection, the declaration is breathtaking in its scope and ambition.
It is generally agreed by most observers that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have fallen short of achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment. Today, women continue to be more likely than men to live in poverty, and more than 18 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa are out of school.
The MDGs were often criticized for having a “blind spot” with regard to inequality and social injustice. Worse, they may even have contributed to entrenched inequalities through perverse incentives. To what extent has this widespread criticism been successfully addressed in the Sustainable Development Goals?
The question of accountability—or, more precisely, the question of how governments will be held to account for implementing the commitments made in this new agenda—was a critical point of contention throughout the negotiations, resulting in a significant watering down of initial proposals by the end of the process.