Alexander had big plans for life after university. Upon completing his engineering degree, he was going to fly out to Africa and build dams. In the end, he took a mergers and acquisitions job in the City. Rather than a story of idealism lost, however, this is one of idealism redirected. Alexander now gives around 50 per cent of his salary to charity, one of the growing number of converts to moral philosophy’s latest revolution: effective altruism.
The Life You Can Save, an organisation founded by Peter Singer and associated with the movement, describes effective altruists as “individuals who devote a significant part of their life to improving the world as effectively as they can.” The movement as a whole seeks to normalise rational and effective giving. Most people would help a struggling individual in their immediate community, or aid a cause because they have a personal reason to support it. Effective altruist organisations create structures to help them combine this gut instinct with reason, applying the same drive to do good on a macro level.