A huge opportunity to do good

From Will MacAskill’s Doing Good Better:

What the conclusions from the economic studies suggest is that the benefit you would get from having your salary doubled is the same as the benefit an extremely poor Indian farmer earning $220 a year would get from an additional $220. As noted earlier, the typical US wage is $28,000 (£18,200), so there is good theoretical reason for thinking that the same amount of money can be of at least one hundred times as much benefit to the very poorest people in the world as it can be to typical citizens of the West. Anyone earning this much is one hundred times as rich as the very poorest people in the world, which means one additional unit of income can do a hundred times as much to benefit the extreme poor as it can to benefit you or I. …

The 100x Multiplier should surprise us. We shouldn’t expect to be able to do so much to benefit others at such little cost to ourselves. But we live in an unusual place during an unusual time. It’s an unusual place because, if you’re reading this book then, like me, you’re probably lucky enough to be earning $16,000 (£10,500) per year or more, putting you in the richest 10% of the world’s population. That’s a remarkable situation to be in. It’s an unusual time because it comes after a period of extraordinary economic progress that has led to some of the world experiencing what is, historically, fabulous wealth. …

In a mere 200 years, we’ve become thirty times richer. But it is a time following remarkably unequal economic progress. Despite the riches of people like us, there are still billions living in abject poverty. … few people who have ever existed have had so much power to help others as we have today.

Sometimes we look at the size of the problems in the world and think, ‘Anything I do would be just a drop in the bucket. So why bother?’ But, … that reasoning doesn’t make any sense. It’s the size of the drop that matters, not the size of the bucket, and, if we choose, we can create an enormous splash.