The following is a conversation between Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer WNYM in New York City.

Peter Singer ©

Denver: It was 10 years ago that the book, The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty shook the world of philanthropy and got people everywhere to think about their own giving in an entirely different way; and its impact has been such that a 10th Anniversary Edition, which has been updated, has just come out. Its author is Peter Singer, The Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and considered by many to be the world’s most influential living philosopher.  And he is with us now.

Good evening, Peter, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Peter: Good evening, Denver. Good to be with you. 

Denver: As a philosopher, Peter, there are many roads to go down. So what got you first interested in seeing that people use their charitable dollars in a fashion that would relieve the greatest amount of suffering and do the most good? 

Peter: I was interested in philosophy being practical, that is, in it having an impact in the world. I never wanted to study philosophy just for the sake of my own learning or even of influencing just my academic colleagues. 

So, when I was a graduate student in Oxford, it was at the time of the crisis in what was then East Pakistan and became Bangladesh, when the Pakistani army repressed the autonomy movement of Bangladesh, or of East Pakistan, and nine million refugees fled across the border from that oppression, across the border into India. India appealed for help to look after this vast number of people that they’d suddenly acquired and had to shelter and feed and so on. 

And there wasn’t really enough forthcoming. So I started thinking, as somebody who was only a graduate student living on a scholarship – but still, I was comfortable and I did have some spare cash – what are my obligations to do something about this situation, to help people? I started writing about that, and I contributed an article called “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” to what was then a completely new journal called Philosophy and Public Affairs, which was trying to get philosophers involved in public affairs as the title suggests.

So that’s really what got me started thinking about what are our obligations, as people who are comfortably off in wealthy countries, to people in extreme poverty, and it’s all gone from there. 

Denver: Well, one of the most famous thought experiments that you’re known for is the drowning child. Share that with us, if you would.

Peter: That comes from the article I just mentioned. In order to get across to people the idea that we do have responsibilities to help, even if we’re not actually the cause of the problem, I ask my readers to imagine that they’re walking across a park, that there’s a pond in the park, that they know that it’s quite a shallow pond, and suddenly they see that there’s a small child who’s fallen into that pond. 

And, of course, you would look around at first for the parents or the babysitter who’s looking after this little child, but just assume that there wasn’t anyone there. You don’t know how the child got into the pond. It’s not your child, but here’s a child in danger of drowning because although the pond is shallow, it’s too deep for that child. But you could easily rush into the pond and grab the child and pull the child out and save the child’s life. There is a small cost to doing that, though, because you’re wearing your best clothes; you just got dressed up to go somewhere fancy, and you don’t have time to get them off.  But if you wade into this muddy pond, they’re going to get ruined. So, you’ll have to replace some of your clothes if you do this. 

Now, then,  I ask the readers to think: Would it be okay to say, “Look, that’s not my child. I’m not responsible. I didn’t put the child in the pond, and I don’t want to ruin my clothes just to save this stranger?” And when I ask people that, they respond, “No. You can’t compare your clothes to a child’s life. That’s not an excuse for ignoring the child. That would be a terribly wrong thing to do. You really ought to rush into the pond and help the child.” 

So, once I’ve got people to agree to that, then I say, “Okay. But for a similar kind of cost, maybe you can save the life of a child somewhere else in the world. It’s not a child right in front of you, it’s not a child you can see, but by donating to an effective organization, you can still do it. So, if it’s wrong not to help the child, why isn’t it wrong not to do something for those who are further away, but whose life is also in danger and who you could help?”

Effective altruism is a philosophy that says: We ought to live our lives so that at least one of our important aims is to make the world a better place; that we’re not just living for ourselves; we’re not even just living for our family and those close to us, but thinking about the world as a whole is something that’s important to do.

Denver: Well, that will cause people to pause for a minute or two, and that crystallizes the essence of effective altruism. How would you define that?

Peter: Effective altruism is a philosophy that says: We ought to live our lives so that at least one of our important aims is to make the world a better place; that we’re not just living for ourselves; we’re not even just living for our family and those close to us, but thinking about the world as a whole is something that’s important to do. So that’s the altruism part, obviously. 

And when we do that, whatever resources we are prepared to put into that – whether it’s time, energy, skills or money – we ought to try to make sure that they’re as effective as possible in doing as much good as we can with those resources. And to do that, we need to draw on evidence and reasoning to think about: What is the best cause? And within that, what is the most effective organization that I can support or work with to make the biggest possible positive difference in the world? 

Denver: I guess part of that concept that you’re just talking about is that: All lives have equal value. Would that be correct? 

Peter: That’s right. The fact that somebody is living far away in another country, the fact that they’re of a different ethnic group or a different religion is not a reason for thinking that it’s less important whether they die or their children die; or whether they can see or go blind; or get malaria or don’t get malaria. These things are equally important wherever you are and whoever you are. 

Denver: Well, let’s talk about going blind. I have a very good friend who works for an organization that trains guide dogs. She tells me it’s about $50,000 to train one of these dogs, and it’s a wonderful organization; a worthwhile organization. They provide freedom and independence to an individual to live their lives. Is there a better way to spend that $50,000 than on training a guide dog for a single individual?

Peter: Yes, there is a better way. And it’s tough to say it because I admire people like your friend who are working to help others. That’s a good thing to do, and there’s no doubt that having a guide dog helps somebody who’s blind. But it isn’t as good as getting your sight restored, or as not going blind in the first place. I think anybody who’s blind with a guide dog would rather have their sight back. And when we look at the cost, as you say $50,000, it’s expensive to train a guide dog because it takes a lot of time and effort.

When you compare that with either doing a simple cataract operation on somebody who is already blind, but can’t get that operation done because they’re in a low-income country, and they don’t have the money; or compare it with preventing people going blind from trachoma, which is the largest single cause of preventable blindness in the world. Both of these procedures are really quite inexpensive. Let’s say, $100. So, you compare that $100 to restore someone’s sight or prevent someone going blind with $50,000 for providing a guide dog, and you can see that there are 500 people whose sight could be restored for the cost of training one guide dog.

And therefore, I’m going to say, as an effective altruist will say, “We really ought to pick the low-hanging fruit here. We really ought to use our resources to do the most good.” And the way the world is at present, that’s not donating to support guide dog organizations.

Denver: That is so interesting, Peter. 

So, let me ask you what an effective altruist would say about this: So if I’m walking through the park, and I see that child drowning, but I’m running late to give a speech. I’m going to get paid $1 million for that speech, and I’ve already declared that I’m going to give that $1 million to the Against Malaria Foundation, but if I don’t get there in time, I won’t get that opportunity. What should I do? 

Peter: That’s emotionally very tough, because, of course, an effective altruist is going to have to say, “You ought to give the speech and get the $1 million” because, as I just said, that can save a large number of lives. We’ve been talking about restoring sight in people, so that could be 10,000 people whose sight you could restore. Or in terms of saving lives, maybe that’s somewhat more expensive, but it’s still, let’s say, going to be 1,000 people or something like that, whose lives you could save. 

So that is better than saving one life, but emotionally, to actually walk past that child and say that child is going to drown is very tough. Looking at you, I don’t know that I would want you to be the kind of person who could just ignore that child. So that’s the dilemma. But if you really imagine it as a hypothetical situation, that you could do that, and those would be the consequences.  I’m going to have to say: Don’t let the $1 million go. If this is the only chance you have to get it and to donate it to effective charities, that actually is better than rescuing the child. 

Peter Singer and Denver Frederick inside the studio

…effective altruists will look first at the question: What cause is going to do the most good?

Denver: What I find so interesting about this, too, is that we’re always comparing one charity to another. So, if I want to save the whales, I’m going to look at eight organizations to save the whales and see which one is doing the best job. But if I’m not wrong, effective altruists are really comparing one cause to another. Would that be correct? And deciding what cause is actually going to do the most good, as opposed to a charity within a cause?

Peter: Well, certainly, effective altruists will look first at the question: What cause is going to do the most good? Once you have decided that, then sure, you do want to look at whether some of the organizations working in that cause are more effective than others. But, in a way, the more difficult question, because it involves questions of values to compare different causes… That’s the question that effective altruists have probably spent the most time on. And then, when they find a good cause, they go and look at one of the organizations like GiveWell or like The Life You Can Save, which I founded, to find which are the most effective charities working in that cause.

… the bulk of your giving, I think, should be giving as effectively as possible, and regard the other things – whether it’s for your university or the hospital that supported your relative when she had breast cancer – regard that as something different, a different sort of pocket of money, which you want to do, and that’s okay. But, otherwise, I’d say reserve most of what you can afford to give for where it will do the most good. 

Denver: The rigor that you guys put into this is unbelievable.

Here’s another issue that people might have and just trying to circle the square about effective altruism…. Loyalty and gratitude play an important role. So an individual goes to college on a scholarship, wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise; gets a great foundation of an education, becomes successful, makes a lot of money, and feels loyalty to that institution; or a parent’s child was saved by a local cancer hospital in their town. 

@So, the two things that come into play are loyalty and gratitude. How do they address those, while also trying to adhere to many of the principles of effective altruism? 

Peter: I think we have many motivations for giving, and they’re not all compatible with effective altruism. Effective altruists are not saints; I don’t want to give anyone the impression that everything they do all the time is directed towards doing the most good in the world. Maybe there are one or two people I know who come very close to that but—

Denver: That’s one or two more than I know.

Peter: —but the great majority of them are not like that. So they’re spending money on things that aren’t doing a lot of good in the world. So, certainly, you can, if you want to, spend some money on things that are doing some good, but not the most good. 

Donating to your alma mater – I teach at Princeton. I’m not a Princeton graduate. But I’m often asked by my students… because they are being lined up for these approaches from the development office at Princeton: Should I donate to Princeton University? What I say to them is, “Look. If that’s something you want to do if you feel some loyalty or some gratitude to the institution that has educated you so well – sure. Do a little bit of that. But don’t confuse that with effective altruism because Princeton has an endowment over $20 billion at the moment (I think it goes up and down a little bit.) Princeton is a wonderful institution, but it has basically what it needs to continue to be a wonderful institution, and you’re not going to make much difference; whereas, there are other things you can do where your donation will make much more significant difference to specific people.”

And so I say, the bulk of your giving, I think, should be giving as effectively as possible, and regard the other things – whether it’s for your university or the hospital that supported your relative when she had breast cancer – regard that as something different, a different sort of pocket of money, which you want to do, and that’s okay. But, otherwise, I’d say Reserve most of what you can afford to give for where it will do the most good. 

Denver: That’s a wonderfully balanced, and-common-sense answer, and I think that’s what you’re really saying is: effective altruism – there has to be some common sense that imbues that in terms of your own proclivities and loyalties, but it really provides a wonderful guide in terms of how to think about your charitable giving.

There’s another issue. I think that sometimes, when people talk about “the life you can save,” they may say, “That’s a bit paternalistic. It’s a bit outdated. The people in the developing world do not need to be saved by the dollars of the Western world. It just reinforces the power imbalance between donor and recipient.” How would you respond to that? 

Peter: I just don’t think it’s true that there are no people in developing countries whose lives can be saved by donations to effective charities from the developed world. And those lives will be lost – they are being lost as we’re talking – because the donations are not sufficient.

You can look at malaria as an example. When people, and especially children, sleep under bed nets to protect them from malaria, they’re less likely to die; that’s statistically proven. And yet, not all of the places where malaria is prevalent have been covered in terms of distribution of bed nets. So, if we don’t do it, it’s not going to happen; or it’s not going to happen for some time. And during that time, people are going to die. 

Denver: You had mentioned a moment ago that – you’ve started an organization and I have been so impressed at the rigor that you brought to analyzing and reviewing these organizations. Tell us what you look at and how you determine your recommendations– which are front and center on your homepage– if somebody comes to visit.

Peter: Yes. So we have drawn on research that has been done by others. We do not have the capacity to have our own full-time professional researchers, but we draw on research that’s done by others.

You might have noticed the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics this year went to Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer – researchers who’ve been doing randomized control trials on anti-poverty interventions.

Denver: They’re at the MIT Poverty Lab, would they be?

Peter: That’s right. Yes. And Michael Kremer is at Harvard, but yes. 

So that kind of research started off with this idea of doing more rigorous research on which interventions help.   It’s been taken up by GiveWell, which does have the resources to have a team of researchers working on this. So we draw on their recommendations to a considerable extent. 

We’re a little broader than GiveWell, and we do accept other organizations which have been audited and evaluated in other ways as being highly effective in terms of their anti-poverty interventions. We have a panel of experts who looks at that evidence drawn from various sources and selects the organizations that we want to be recommending. 

Denver: Well, you have an impressive group of people reviewing this and an impressive group of recipients. 

How would you weigh the Against Malaria Foundation, which ostensibly can save a person’s life, with GiveDirectly, which are basically going to be direct cash transfers to lift the standard of living of a person? How does one weigh between mortality and increasing income?

Peter: Those are difficult questions. Both these organizations relate to working with people in extreme poverty, and they both do different things. 

Giving bed nets against malaria doesn’t only save lives – it does save lives, and that’s the sort of thing that is up front and center, that you can save a child’s life. But, of course, it prevents other people getting malaria; not everybody who gets malaria dies, and malaria is a really debilitating disease.

I happen to have had malaria myself. I went up to New Guinea when I was in my late teens, I think, and I picked up malaria there, and it certainly knocked me around for a while. But, of course, I think I was back in Australia by the time it hit me, and I had excellent medical attention. I think I had about three bouts of it; it came back a couple of times. But you feel terrible and weak, and if I hadn’t been able to get the right drugs, I would have had that for much longer. So, there is a big quality of life impact in preventing people getting malaria. They can work better and provide better. 

So, in that sense, some of that is comparable to what GiveDirectly does. They’re handing out cash transfers to people, and they’re, again, rigorously examining what happens to people or to villages in which the poorest people get cash transfers, as compared with others where they don’t. They are, of course, aware of problems, like creating dependence. They’re aware of the idea that was floated around before they really started, that if you give people cash, they’ll spend it on alcohol or gambling or prostitutes or something like that.

So they had to test all of that very, very rigorously, and it turns out that that doesn’t happen; that people spend the money often on capital goods that they could not otherwise have afforded, like getting a tin roof for their house where they just had a thatched roof. Having a tin roof saves you money in the long run because it lasts longer, but unless you can get $300 together, you can’t afford it. And for families that are on maybe $700 to $1,000 a year, you can’t save $300.  So that makes a clear difference to their quality of life. And then, there’s been research following up, finding out what happens: Do their children go to school more often? Do they eat better? Do they have more assets in the long run?

So you have to look at those indications, and even when you do, it’s still hard to say. In a sense… some people will say, “Well, I’m still going to prefer the intervention that is more likely to save a life than the one that is more likely to give a family a better quality of life.” But I think it could go either way on that because, after all, if people get out of poverty, they’re likely to also have healthier lives. They’re likely, perhaps, to have better sanitation, better nutrition so their children will be stronger to resist diseases that are still going to be around. So, it’s pretty difficult to make that call, and I think that’s why we recommend both GiveDirectly and the Against Malaria Foundation. 

Denver: I was a little surprised at GiveDirectly. In terms of alcohol and tobacco use, it, in fact, went down, which was really impressive when you think about it because it was completely contrary to what many people said would happen. I think they saw opportunity in their lives to do something, and they just became more diligent and more productive. So it’s really – 

Peter: I think that might be right. If you feel that you’re stuck in a situation where nothing is ever going to change, then you might as well have a drink now and again and forget about it and get some pleasure here or there. But if you think, “I’ve really got a path where I can get out of this situation, get my family out of this situation…” 

Denver: I have a cow. I can do something. 

Peter: Yes. Whatever little business opportunity it is now that you can start, I think people will go for that as best they can. 

Denver: I have been following this movement, and I’m seeing how it is evolving. So, I want to ask you a little bit about indirect impact because so much of what it has been about up until this point in time has been direct impact. Along these lines, we’ve talked about Helen Keller,  with vitamin A, and with malaria. 

But then I start to think about advocacy and laws and regulations. So, if we look at this country here – what we’ve been able to do with tobacco. By changing those laws, it probably saved tons and tons and tons of lives. And if similar legislation could be passed in low-income countries, what would the impact of that be? How do effective altruists think about that, and where is it moving in that regard?

Peter: Yes. This was one of the things that I was referring to when I said that The Life You Can Save has a somewhat wider scope than GiveWell, which tends to focus on those organizations where there is that kind of evidence, although it’s now branching out and getting wider as well. 

So, organizations like – we have Oxfam on our list, for example. Oxfam is – among other things that it does, it does direct work in the field, of course, but it’s also an advocacy organization, both here in the United States where it’s advocated for, for example, better trade deals. It’s advocated for the Publish What You Pay Law, which makes  American oil companies that are paying for rights to extract oil in a developing country have to publish what they’re paying to the governments of those countries so that the people of those countries then know what their governments are getting and can ask: What are you doing with that money?

Oxfam has also been in advocacy within countries helping people. So, for example, in Ghana, when Ghana discovered oil, helping the civil society organizations in Ghana to lobby for an oil-for-agriculture law, which doesn’t mean that they’re pouring oil on the farmlands. It means that a portion of the revenue by law… or a portion of the revenue from the oil rights… goes to help smallholder farmers to help them to be more successful at farming and feeding their families. 

Peter Singer and Denver Frederick inside the studio

…in the last year, we had a ratio of 13-to-1 for amount of money flowing as compared to the amount of money we spend. So, for every dollar that we’ve spent in trying to promote the idea of effective altruism and the idea of giving effectively, $13 have gone to the most effective charities that we’re recommending. We think that that means that we’re getting particularly good value-for-money ourselves. 

Denver: As a 501(c)(3) and as an organization that is absolutely laser-focused on impact, how does your organization measure its impact?

Peter: We measure our impact by looking at what we’re spending, and comparing that with the funds that are flowing specifically through our work, to the organizations we’re recommending. We can track that particularly when people go to our website, look at different organizations, click on one of those organizations, and then donate. As a result, they’re taken to the website of the organization; they donate to that organization; the organization can track that this donation has come through us, and so we can then total those sums. 

What we found is that we have, I think, in the last year, we had a ratio of 13-to-1 for amount of money flowing as compared to the amount of money we spend. So, for every dollar that we’ve spent in trying to promote the idea of effective altruism and the idea of giving effectively, $13 have gone to the most effective charities that we’re recommending. We think that that means that we’re getting particularly good value-for-money ourselves. 

Denver: No doubt about it. And I’m sure you probably don’t know this, but where do you think that money is coming from? And by that, I mean do you think it’s new donors? Or perhaps you think it’s people who have been supporting the international development community and are switching their donations to these organizations? Because one thing other than Oxfam, a lot of these are not the big names that we’re used to – the UNICEFs and Save the Children. There are other kinds of organizations that I think a lot of listeners probably would not be as familiar with. Would that be a fair thing to say?

Peter: That’s definitely true. There are a lot of organizations. We have about 20 organizations we’re recommending. And yes, perhaps Oxfam is more or less the exception. There are a couple of others that people might know, but I would guess probably for most people going to that website, at least three-quarters of the organizations there are ones that they’ve never heard of, but that have very impressive stories of what they’re doing. 

Now, are these people who were going to give anyway, but are giving more effectively? I’m sure some of them are, and of course, we regard that as a good thing. But we are doing extensive outreach work, and I certainly know from firsthand experience that there are people who picked up my book The Life You Can Save and started giving because of that. They hadn’t really thought about giving very much, or they’ve done it in just pretty much a random way – when somebody had asked them, they’d given a small donation. 

But it’s really encouraging when people say, “You’ve changed my attitude to giving. I was pretty haphazard about it. Now, I’m setting aside 10% of my income,” or whatever it might be. It will vary of course with lots of people and with how much income they have, “but I’m setting aside that, and I’m going to give that to the most effective charities I can find.” So, we are definitely bringing new donors into the area. 

Denver: There’s no doubt that you have moved the needle. 

You’re not just a book and you’re not just an organization – you are a movement. I get so many e-mails from the effective altruists’ community; I can’t believe it. Tell me about your adherents. Where is the energy coming from? Who are these people who are really engaged in effective altruism?

Peter: This is quite a new movement. It’s interesting. In the 10 years since I first published The Life You Can Save, and one of the things that I’ll be talking about in the new edition though that’s just out now is the rise of this movement, pretty much within that 10-year period. It was just starting, but hardly anybody had heard of it in 2009. And now, we have a worldwide movement with groups all over the world, not just in rich nations like the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia, but also groups in a number of Asian countries, in Latin American countries, too, and they’re mostly very young.

So, some of these groups started out as campus groups, started by undergraduates here in the United States. For example, I think Rutgers in New Jersey was the first campus group, and then it spread from there. And then people who’ve been through that and are now in their 20s and in careers and are earning and donating. 

But it’s very much still a young movement. It’s a well-educated movement. I would say that the majority of our people have university education, and perhaps quite a number of them are in sort of the tech areas – IT, startups, and so on. Disproportionately so, it’s got around in those areas. But it certainly attracts other people who are not in those areas but were interested in giving and interested in doing good in their lives and have joined groups. There are a number of independent groups and chapters around the world, and I think that supports people in what they’re doing. 

Denver: A lot of rational people, a lot of math majors, I’ve noticed in the notes that I’ve been getting…because they look at this in a very quantitative and a very effective way. I don’t want to say their emotions are not involved because they are, but they’re also really getting their head into their giving.

Peter: I think it’s a combination of heart and head, yes. But you’re right. It’s interesting that you observed that because I’ve noticed that too… that I think people who come from maths or, again, computer science kind of backgrounds are perhaps quicker to get the idea that “Yes, I want to do more good. It’s not enough that I see a pamphlet with a picture of a smiling child and think ‘yes, this is a good organization. I’ll donate to them.’ I really need more data. I really need to know that this organization is doing exactly what they’re doing with my donation and that that’s better than other organizations would do.”

Denver: Let me ask you one more thing about effective altruism and animals. I think it was Jeremy Bentham who believed that every living thing, including animals, should count as one, and not more than one, and there are effective altruists who believe that the interest of non-human animals should be accorded the same moral weight as humans and work to prevent the suffering of animals. You have spoken and written about this extensively. How do you look at it? 

Peter: Yes. I certainly look at animal suffering as something that is a bad thing and that we ought to reduce. You asked me earlier about how we compare causes. This is another one that’s very difficult to compare because part of the argument is that there is such vast amount of animal suffering. In the United States alone, there is something like eight billion chickens produced each year; 99.999% of those are indoors in factory farms, extremely crowded. Organizations have been effective in trying to improve animal welfare, in trying to get big corporations to avoid factory farm products and provide alternatives. It’s a work-in-progress, but it’s getting somewhere 

So if you have the choice, you say, “Well, look. I could save hundreds of thousands of chickens from weeks of suffering in these crowded conditions, or I could save one child’s life.  How are you going to decide that?” I don’t have any real way of saying what’s the right decision in that comparison, but people will have their different preferences. 

And if they are concerned about animal welfare, as I think we all should be to some extent, then, again, we have an organization that does that evaluation. It’s called Animal Charity Evaluators, and you can find that and they are assessing which organizations are the most effective. 

One other thing I’ll add if you’re interested in being effective in the animal field, part of the problem here is that, as I’ve been saying, the vast majority of animal suffering is inflicted on farmed animals – on chickens and pigs and cows, in particular. But the vast majority of the money donated to animal welfare groups in the United States goes to dogs and cats or going to shelter organizations, to organizations that are helping to rescue stray dogs and cats. And that’s really, really disproportionate, not only to the number of animals suffering but to the type of suffering. 

So I would like to redress this balance a bit. Again, I would say – as I said with people wanting to give to their university or to the hospital that looked after their sick relative – if you care about dogs and cats – fine. Give something to them. But don’t forget about the 99% of animal suffering, which is inflicted on farmed animals; and think about the excellent organizations like The Humane League or Mercy For Animals in the United States that are focused on farmed animals and are really doing excellent work in reducing their suffering.

Peter Singer and Denver Frederick

Denver: You’re looking to get people to ask themselves questions that they perhaps never had thought of before. 

Let me close with this, Peter. Why did you feel it was important to issue this anniversary edition of The Life You Can Save? What are you saying now about this movement that you weren’t able to say 10 years ago?

Peter: There is a lot more information out there now, and there is this new movement – as we were just saying – the effective altruism movement, which has helped to provide more information. In fact, the organization The Life You Can Save didn’t exist in 2009 because it spun off the publication of the book.

One of the things I’m saying now is: we have a lot more data about which are the effective organizations. I can talk about some of the different things that those effective organizations are doing, and I can provide evidence for the good that they’re doing, which wasn’t there. I can also talk about connecting people to the effective altruism movement and how to be effective in this area.

I feel that the book – I think it had a strong basis 10 years ago, but I think it has a much stronger basis still in terms of the evidence that’s available now than it did when I first wrote it. 

Denver: You’ve come a long way, and you are still in the early innings, 

Well, Peter Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and the author of The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty, thanks so much for being here this evening. Now, is it true that people can access this book for free? And if so, how do they go about doing that? 

Peter: Yes, that is true. They couldn’t do that with the first edition, but we, the organization The Life You Can Save, has bought back the rights from the publisher precisely because we want to have the widest possible readership, and we don’t want cost to be a deterrence. So, although, if you want a print book, we have to charge for that, and that should be in bookstores, or you can get it online. But obviously there’s cost in producing it; we can’t give that away.  

But we can give away both an e-book and an audiobook where the chapters are read by well-known celebrities: Paul Simon, for example of Simon and Garfunkel reads a chapter; Kristen Bell and Mike Schur of The Good Place read chapters; Stephen Fry, a BBC broadcaster who is well-known to people in England, reads a chapter. I like the fact we have an African woman, Winnie Auma reading a chapter. I like the fact that there’s a lot of different English accents going on in this book: American English; my Australian one, I read a chapter; an African woman; and an Indian actress Shabana Azmi. So, it’s really a diverse book in itself now. 

How do people get this? It’s very simple. They just go and they will find a link there for downloading either the e-book or the audiobook, or if you want to, get them both. And tell your friends about it, too. They can get it as well. 

Denver: Well, thanks, Peter, for a great conversation. It was a real pleasure to have you on the program. 

Peter: Thanks very much, Denver. It’s been great talking to you.

Denver: I’ll be back with more of The Business of Giving right after this.

Peter Singer and Denver Frederick

The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at

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