My guest in the latest Development Drums podcast is the moral philosopher Toby Ord.Toby has made a commitment to give away the majority of his lifetime income to charities working in the poorest countries. He is also the founder of Giving What We Can, a society of people who commit themselves to give away at least 10% of their income to wherever it will do the most to relieve suffering in the developing world.
In the podcast, Toby talks why he thinks it is important to identify and support the most cost effective programmes. The podcast also discusses the moral philosophy which guides Toby’s approach.
One of Toby’s insights which I found interesting was his observation that the cost per year of life saved varied enormously between different development programmes. You can buy an additional year of life for $3-$10 by investing in interventions such as zinc fortification, childhood vaccination and managing tropical diseases, compared to about $500 for antiretroviral therapy. Toby challenges the common assumption that we should spread money around to do a little of everything, or that we are entitled to choose the issue which most interests us. He suggests we have a clear duty to identify the most cost effective approaches and then focus our money on those.
In the final part of the podcast we discuss Toby’s decision to establish Giving What We Can, and the choice that Toby has made to give away most of his lifetime earnings.
[This blog post was updated on 27 April 2012 to reflect corrections to the original DCP2 estimates of the cost effectiveness of treatment of Soil Transmitted Helminths, which were found to be incorrect]