Young, smart and want to save lives? Become a banker, says philosopher

Mon Jul 27, 2015 3:43am EDT
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By Joseph D'Urso

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Investment banking doesn't rank highly on most people's lists of ethical career choices, but according to one of the world's most famous living philosophers, becoming a hot shot in finance may be the best way for a bright graduate to help the global poor.

A high earner in the corporate world who is giving away large sums can create more social gain than if they did charity work, said Peter Singer, who teaches at Princeton University.

"If they are able to live modestly and give a lot away, they can save many lives," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Singer is part of a movement of donors known as 'effective altruists', who demand concrete results from charitable donations, and often come from the business world. Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk will address the movement's global conference at Google headquarters in California in September.

The growing community encourages people to give big chunks of their income, typically around ten percent but in some cases more than half, to charities that alleviate global poverty.


Matt Wage came top of his class at Princeton, where he was taught by Singer. There, he and his friends looked at research which said it costs "around $3,340" to save a life, and Wage looked at how best he could set about helping.   Continued...

Australian philosopher Peter Singer poses for an portrait at Yale University Press office to promote his new book "The Most You Can Do", in London, Britain, June 11, 2015.  THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Tristan Martin