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April 06, 2015

Lincoln Center Gift Is the Wrong Way to Do Philanthropy

Ethicist Peter Singer discusses his philanthropic philosophy and criticizes Hollywood mogul David Geffen's recent $100 million gift to renovate Lincoln Center's concert hall in a Wall Street Journal profile coinciding with the release of Mr. Singer's new book. 

In The Most Good You Can Do, to be released Tuesday, the Princeton and University of Melbourne professor calls on people to donate a third of their income to charity and focus their giving on helping the world's poorest people meet basic needs. He tells the Journal he does not understand "how anyone could think that giving to the renovation of a concert hall that could impact the lives of generally well-off people ... could be the best thing that you could do with $100 million."

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof also writes about Mr. Singer's theory of "effective altruism," citing the example of Matt Wage, a former student of Mr. Singer's at Princeton who upon graduation took a lucrative Wall Street job in order to have more income to give away. Mr. Wage donates about half his income, supporting charities such as the Against Malaria Foundation.

Read a Chronicle of Philanthropy interview with Peter Singer about his new book.