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September 14, 2015

Opinion: What Impact-Driven 'Effective Altruism' Misses

In its drive to foster philanthropy based on data, reason, and the widest possible impact, the "effective altruism" movement ignores the traditional, theological underpinning of charity as an exercise in love and compassion, a nonprofit leader writes in The Washington Post.

Jeremy Beer, author of The Philanthropic Revolution and president of the conservative American Ideas Institute, uses the example of "Pete," a homeless veteran in his neighborhood, and the "informal web of charity in which he lives," such as the patrons of a local diner chipping in to cover meals for him.

Effective altruists, Mr. Beer says, would view such giving as "immorally wasteful ... reason says that the time and money put toward caring for Pete should be directed to a cause where they can do greater good." Such charity "may not change the world in the most 'logical' way," he adds, "but it nevertheless has an important effect: It protects, preserves and grows local economies of love. Effective altruism leaves such economies wholly unaccounted for."