The Life You Can Save (Book Review)

The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer is an awesome book that will spark your interest in doing good, help you know where to donate, and discusses honestly what objections you might have to it.

Download the book for free!

Also as an audiobook!

Here are some random notes:

“The argument that we ought to be doing more to save the lives of people living in extreme poverty presupposes that we can do it, and at a moderate cost. But can we? If so, to which organizations should we donate? It’s a question all donors should ask themselves, yet only 38% of U.S. donors do any research at all, and only 9% compare different nonprofits.”

Please visit givewell.org too compare charities!

We also have had an enormous impact. Irradication of smallpox, getting millions (if not billions) out of poverty, having few mothers and children die. See Gapminder (website) or Factfulness (book).

On the whole, we’re all giving very little. “Aid over that period was about 0.3% or 30 cents of every $100 earned.” And only a small percentage of that was going to effective charities.

“To get some perspective on this: in 2017, worldwide net official development assistance and aid was approximately $170 billion, while in the same year, consumers spent $532 billion on cosmetics.”

Of that 0.3%, much was also political and defense-related spending. E.g. “Afghanistan topped the list of recipients of U.S. aid, receiving $1.3 billionAfghanistan is undoubtedly a very poor country, but so is Ethiopia, and Ethiopia has three times as many people as Afghanistan

One big question that I want to answer myself is ‘How much should I give?

I think that giving effectively will lead to more happiness (or prevent more suffering) than much of the money I earn would bring if I spend it on myself or my immediate surroundings.

Peter Singer defines it as your ‘fair share’ and offers different views on how to approach this.

Ok, I can keep on reading the book (I have it open as a .pdf (again for free to download)) but I should be making some rules for myself.

I will put them in this post that focusses on my financial situation. Go read it here.

Some basic points:

  • Save money by not spending it on things that won’t make myself happy in the first place
    • This includes spending on coffee at the train station regularly
    • But still doing this at the start of a vacation or other irregular moments
  • Figure out how much to keep/save to live comfortably
  • And how much to save/have to pay off student debts
  • Find out how to donate most effectively (via holding?)
    • Find out if that circumvents the 10% max donation limit
    • Or that I should do that by making a contract with AMF
  • Discuss this with Lotte, but should be alright since what I intend to keep is already enough

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