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Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference Hardcover – July 28, 2015

4.5 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Beautifully written and extremely smart. Doing Good Better should be required reading for anyone interested in making the world better.”—Steven D. Levitt, #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of Freakonomics and When to Rob a Bank
“This is the most valuable guide to charitable giving ever published. Even readers who disagree with MacAskill’s conclusions about the value of particular charitable donations will make smarter decisions by learning from his analysis.”—Paul Brest, co-director, Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and former president, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation 
"A straightforward guide to help anyone make the largest possible difference in the lives of others." —Sue Desmond-Hellman, CEO of the Gates Foundation

"We research hotels and headphones and sushi bars—but not charities. That is lunacy. And in this powerful and persuasive book, William MacAskill shows us how much we stand to gain from a little bit of thoughtfulness: The same donation could do hundreds of times more good if given to the most effective charities, rather than the least"—Dan Heath, co-author of the New York Times bestsellers Made to StickSwitch, and Decisive
“Effective altruism—efforts that actually help people rather than making you feel good or helping you show off—is one of the great new ideas of the twenty-first century. Doing Good Better is the definitive guide to this exciting new movement.”—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature
Doing Good Better is a superb achievement. This must-read book will lead people to change their careers, their lives, and the world, for the better.”—Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, author of Animal Liberation and The Most Good You Can Do 
Doing Good Better is a must-read for anyone with both a heart and a brain. MacAskill demolishes the lazy myths of nothing-you-can-do-ism and demonstrates the power of asking the right questions. This is an important book. It's also surprisingly fun. Figuring out what really helps people is a challenging scientific puzzle, and these pages are full of unexpected twists—enlightening and invigorating.”—Joshua Greene, director of Harvard's Moral Cognition Lab, author of Moral Tribes
“Humanity currently spends more money on cigarette ads than on making sure that we as a species survive this century. We've got our priorities all wrong, and we need effective altruism to right them. If you want to make a real difference on the biggest issues of our time, you need to read Doing Good Better.”— Jaan Tallinn, cofounder, Skype and Kazaa
Doing Good Better has rare combination of strikingly original ideas, effortless clarity of delivery, and a thoroughgoing practicality that leaves the reader inspired to get out of their chair and take on the world. Humanity faces some big challenges in the 21st century; this is a much-needed manifesto for social change, and Will MacAskill is the ideal ambassador.”—Eric Drexler, founder of nanotechnology and author of Engines of Creation
“MacAskill tackles a monumental question: how can we make the biggest difference for the greatest number of people? His answer is a grand vision to make giving, volunteering, spending, and working more worthwhile.”—Adam GrantNew York Times bestselling author of Give and Take
“Are you interested in giving away money more effectively?  This is the very best book on how to do that.” —Tyler Cowen, Holbert C. Harris Professor of Economics at George Mason University and author of Average is Over
“I wish I'd had this structure and insights twenty years ago!”—Caroline Fiennes, Director, Giving Evidence

About the Author

William MacAskill is an Associate Professor in Philosophy at Oxford University and the cofounder of the nonprofit organizations Giving What We Can and 80,000 Hours. These nonprofits have raised over $400 million in lifetime pledged donations to charity and helped to spark the effective altruism movement. He is a contributor to Quartz, the online business magazine of The Atlantic and he and his organizations have been featured in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and TED, among other media outlets. He lives in Oxford, England.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Avery (July 28, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592409105
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592409105
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Russell Fanelli TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 14, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It will probably come as no surprise to many readers of this review that The Charities Aid Foundation lists the United States as the most charitable nation in the world. We are now and have been a generous people both with our time and treasure.

My guess is that many people reading this review are charitable people who want to know if their hard earned money is well spent when they give it to their favorite charity. In his new book, William MacAskill, cofounder of the Effective Altruism Movement, gives us a thoughtful method for determining what charities will make best use of our contributions and make a genuine difference for good in the lives of desperate and destitute people.

In Part One of his book he answers these questions:
1. How many people benefit, and by how much?
2. Is this the most effective thing you can do?
3. Is this area neglected?
4. What would have happened otherwise?
5. What are the chances of success, and how good would success be?

In order to accurately answer these questions, economists have developed a metric called the quality-adjusted life year (QALY). Time and again MacAskill will use this metric to highlight effective and ineffective organizations. Toward the end of his book he gives us a list of those charities that pass the QALY muster such as GiveDirectly, Deworm the World International, Against Malaria Foundation, etc.

Part Two of MacAskill's book shows us Effective Altruism in Action. From beginning to end he tells us interesting stories about people who make a difference for good. He makes the point repeatedly that even small contributions that are well placed can significantly impact the quality of life of poor and sick people.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Doing Good Better easily earns 5 stars. It has the potential to do much good itself, in helping others choose effective charities and in making related choices, plus it is an interesting and enjoyable read.

MacAskill takes us through the process of analyzing our altruistic based choices, from selecting which charities to support, to career choices, and more. First, he explains why the outlook he takes (that the good that a charity actually provides) is more important than the commonly used factor of “how much of the donated money does this charity use for purposes other than overhead and fund-raising”. Though the proportion of money used for actual charity work may seem important, if that work actually ends up providing little or no actual benefit to someone, then it is money wasted.

CH 1 - You Are the 1 Percent: Just how much can you achieve? – This chapter offers an eye opening look at world income inequality. Some shocking facts, “If you earn more than $52,000 per year, then, speaking globally, you are the 1 percent… Even someone living below the US poverty line, earning just $11,000 per year, is still richer than 85 percent of people in the world.” Because of this, donations to charities working on social issues in Third World areas have the potential to do much more good per dollar. MacAskill calls this effect the 100x Multiplier. Because of the disparity between what $1 can buy in this country, and what it can buy in the Third World, that dollar can provide much more benefit overseas. Lest you think that the problem is so great and your dollar is so small, that you need not bother, MacAskill points out, it’s not the size of the bucket that matters, it’s the size of the drop you are putting in the bucket. That drop actually matters to real people in need.
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Format: Hardcover
I may be a bit biased towards this book–I've been involved in the effective altruism movement for some time, I'm one of the case-studies mentioned in the chapter on career choice. I've wanted to use my career to make the world a better place since I was little, but until I encountered effective altruism, I had no good ideas on how to do so. Without effective altruism, I literally do not know what I'd be doing with my life.

That said, I was a little apprehensive when I heard this book was coming out. What if this book was just kind of "meh"? Well, after biking to two different local book stores to find a copy the day it came out, and reading it that same evening, I'm happy to report that this is one of the best books I've ever read. This is one of those books where I feel like I came to it knowing a lot about the subject, and still learned a ton of things I didn't know before.

To give just one example: the discussion of global income distribution was extremely powerful. In a sense I'd heard it all before, but the exact numbers still shocked me. I wasn't so surprised to hear that people making $52,000 a year are in the global 1%, but knowing that people at the US poverty like are still in the top 15% surprised me. I almost couldn't believe it at first, and thought Will had forgotten about purchasing power differences or something, but the book makes clear that these numbers hold up even after accounting for that and many other factors.

Seriously, this is in a class with Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. I'd give it six stars if I could.
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