Volume 21

Effective Altruism, Global Justice, and Individual Obligations

by Brian Berkey

On at least most accounts of what global justice requires, those living in severe poverty around the world are unjustly disadvantaged. Remedying this unjust disadvantage requires (perhaps among other things) that resources currently possessed by well-off people are deployed in ways that will improve the lives of the poor. In this article, I argue that, contrary to the claims of some critics, well-off individuals’ effective altruist giving is at least among the appropriate responses to global injustice. In addition, I suggest that effective altruist giving will often be among the best ways for such people to satisfy obligations that they have in virtue of being beneficiaries of global injustice. The argument that I offer for this conclusion has at least two important implications: first, critics of effective altruism who claim that it is incompatible with taking global injustice sufficiently seriously are mistaken; and second, effective altruists have reason to reject the non-normative accounts of the movement’s core commitments that have been advocated by some prominent proponents.

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