Why aren’t you giving this money away to local charities, or your law schools, or political candidates who will help us right here in the United States?

We do give to those causes, although not in this amount. The reason that this money will probably go to the developing world is that we’re trying to get the most bang for our buck.

Money given to assist people in abject poverty can go a long, long way. In other words, it is the most cost-effective way to make a positive difference. Generally, seeking the maximum return for your dollar means giving money overseas because, for all of the serious problems we have in the United States, the problems in the developing world are more severe and comparatively cheaper to solve. Rampant malnutrition, river blindness, famine, and murderous civil wars are not common in the United States. In other places, they are.

Money goes farther in the developing world because the problems are worse.  To use Peter Singer’s example, it costs about $40,000 to acquire a seeing-eye dog, train the dog, match the dog with a blind person in the United States, and train the person to work with the dog.  Helping to provide seeing-eye dogs to blind people is good, of course.  But we should also think about what else could be done with the money.  In developing countries where people suffer from river blindness or trachoma, blindness can be cured for about $50.   So if you’re looking to donate $40,000, you can either provide one blind person in the developed world with a seeing-eye dog, or cure fifty blind people in the developing world.  We think that Singer made the point well here.

In his book The Life You Can Save, Singer argues that you can save a life in the developing world for $1,000 or less. We don’t mean to diminish the importance of domestic giving, but when it comes to our firm’s big give, we think we can do the most good for the most people by giving abroad. In parts of the developing world, a $5 mosquito net can be the difference between life and death.

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