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I think the Forum should have a collection of posts ("sequence") on global health and development. What posts should we include?

Here's a very rough preliminary list:

Moral foundations

Ord, Toby (2019) The moral imperative toward cost-effectiveness in global health, in Hilary Greaves & Theron Pummer (eds.) Effective Altruism: Philosophical Issues, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 29–36.

Ord, Toby (2012) Global poverty and the demands of morality, in John Perry (ed.) God, the Good, and Utilitarianism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 177–191.

Singer, Peter (1972) Famine, affluence, and morality, Philosophy & Public Affairs, vol. 1, pp. 229–243.


GiveWell (2010) Your donation can change someone’s life, GiveWell.

GiveWell (2016) The wrong donation can accomplish nothing, GiveWell.

GiveWell (2010) Your dollar goes further overseas, GiveWell, September.

Randomista debate

Halstead, John & Hauke Hillebrandt (2020) Growth and the case against randomista development, Effective Altruism Forum, January 16.

Ogden, Timothy (2020) RCTs in development economics, their critics and their evolution, in Florent Bédécarrats, Isabelle Guérin & François Roubaud (eds.) Randomized Control Trials in the Field of Development, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 126–151.

Aid skepticism

Karnofsky, Holden (2015) The lack of controversy over well-targeted aid, The GiveWell Blog, November 6.

MacAskill, William (2019) Aid scepticism and effective altruism, Journal of Practical Ethics, vol. 7, pp. 49–60.


Kuhn, Ben (2019) Why Nations Fail and the long-termist view of global poverty, Ben Kuhn’s Blog, July 16.

Kaufman, Jeff (2015) Why global poverty?, Jeff Kaufman’s Blog, August 11.

Ord, Toby (2017) The value of money going to different groups, Centre for Effective Altruism, May 2 (updated 19 February 2020).




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Banerjee & Duflo 'Foreign affairs' article is pretty bad, and contains an interesting error, so maybe it should be removed:

"Between 2014 and 2016, a total of 582 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets were delivered globally. Of these, 75 percent were given out through mass distribution campaigns of free bed nets, saving tens of millions of lives."

They actually repeat this mistake in their recent book 'Good economics for hard times': 

"The magazine Nature concluded that insecticide-treated net distributions averted 450 million malaria deaths between 2000 and 2015."

which probably based on an old GWWC article, but they mix up deaths and cases.

(Says something about their priors that they believe that bed nets have saved half almost half a billion lives and they're off by two orders of magnitude. It's the Nobel prize in economics equivalent of believing that Michael Bloomberg could give every American $1m.)

Maybe include 'Givewell's Top Charities are increasingly hard to beat' instead?

Banerjee & Duflo 'Foreign affairs' article is pretty bad, and contains an interesting error, so maybe it should be removed

Interestingly, I considered removing it after reading it and being unimpressed by it, but distrusted my judgment since (I think) I saw it recommended by a reputable social scientist. The error escaped my attention, though. I will remove it. Thanks.

Per word - and for a particular kind of person - Piper (2015) is one of the most powerful things ever written on the topic. I think about it most months of my life. But I understand why you might not include it in a curriculum.

just so you know, there are people who are angry about global inequality, people who want to end all of the bad things in the world, people who feel the same pain and anger that you feel. But we don’t treat mass murder as inevitable. We don’t call people weak for disagreements. We don’t admire people for their willingness to kill for the cause, or even for their willingness to suffer for the cause - just for their ability to change stuff so there’s no more cause and we can all retire happily to a world without poverty. And we’d love to have you. If you ever get tired, come join us, we milquetoast autistic rationalist liberals, because you don’t have to rant on the internet about killing people to earn our esteem, you just have to fix stuff.

Roodman (2007)

"On balance, the quantitative approach to exploring grand questions about aid effectiveness, which began 40 years ago, was worth trying and may be worth pursuing somewhat further. But the literature will probably continue to disappoint as often as it offers hope. The biggest challenge is to go beyond documenting correlations to demonstrating causation -- to show not just that aid went hand-in-hand with economic growth, but caused it. Aid has eradicated diseases, prevented famines, and done many other good things. But given the limited and noisy data available, its effects on growth in particular probably cannot be detected."

As an alternative to "Famine, Affluence, and Morality," there is Peter Unger's Living High and Letting Die, of which Chapter 2 is particularly relevant.  It's more philosophical (this could be a bad thing) and much more comprehensive than Singer's article.

This is the first of our cases:

The Vintage Sedan. Not truly rich, your one luxury in life is a vintage Mercedes sedan that, with much time, attention and money, you've restored to mint condition. In particular, you're pleased by the auto's fine leather seating. One day, you stop at the intersection of two small country roads, both lightly travelled. Hearing a voice screaming for help, you get out and see a man who's wounded and covered with a lot of his blood. Assuring you that his wound's confined to one of his legs, the man also informs you that he was a medical student for two full years. And, despite his expulsion for cheating on his second year final exams, which explains his indigent status since, he's knowledgeably tied his shirt near the wound so as to stop the flow. So, there's no urgent danger of losing his life, you're informed, but there's great danger of losing his limb. This can be prevented, however, if you drive him to a rural hospital fifty miles away. “How did the wound occur?” you ask. An avid bird‐watcher, he admits that he trespassed on a nearby field and, in carelessly leaving, cut himself on rusty barbed wire. Now, if you'd aid this trespasser, you must lay him across your fine back seat. But, then, your fine upholstery will be soaked through with blood, and restoring the car will cost over five thousand dollars. So, you drive away. Picked up the next day by another driver, he survives but loses the wounded leg.

Except for your behavior, the example's as realistic as it's simple.

Even including the specification of your behavior, our other case is pretty realistic and extremely simple; for convenience, I'll again display it:

The Envelope. In your mailbox, there's something from (the U.S. Committee for) UNICEF. After reading it through, you correctly believe that, unless you soon send in a check for $100, then, instead of each living many more years, over thirty more children will die soon. But, you throw the material in your trash basket, including the convenient return envelope provided, you send nothing, and, instead of living many years, over thirty more children soon die than would have had you sent in the requested $100.

Taken together, these contrast cases will promote the chapter's primary puzzle.

Thanks. A related option would be to list The Singer solution to world poverty, which describes both Singer's drowning child example and some of Unger's thought experiments. (I thought that article was pretty powerful when I first read it, but that was over a decade ago.)

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I wrote up a brief overview of EA & Global Development, there may be some resources in there that are useful to add.

Great! Have you considered publishing this as a Forum post? Then we can include it in the "sequence" (besides listing a bunch of readings, you have a list of relevant orgs, courses, and other resources which aren't posts and so can't be included in the collection, despite being valuable and relevant).

Sure, I can make it into a post, thanks for suggesting it.

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