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How Egoist Altruism Yields Improved Education & Global Prosperity: The Case for Unconditional Philanthropy

Today, many people give money to charity irregularly, and only when it coincides with a specific passion.

I will make the case for why more people should give more money more frequently — even if they are concerned primarily with their personal wellbeing and don’t consider themselves an altruist. My conclusion is based on one economic (and counterintuitive) fact:

The more people that want what you want, the more likely that you are to get it.

For 99.9% of human history, people existed as hunters and gathers living in small tribes, and eventually as farmers in small settlements — and world GDP was equivalent to agricultural production.

During almost all of human history, the global economy grew only marginally.

In this fixed-pie (zero-sum) era, when one group of people gained wealth, it often meant that another group lost wealth. When the Assyiran empire conquered the Middle East and gained assets, the former inhabitants lost assets. When the Babylonians then conquered the area and gained assets, the Assyrians lost assets.

Another consequence of this fixed-pie economy was extreme economic inequality, in which a very small percentage of the population controlled a large majority of the wealth.

With the introduction of the industrial revolution in 1760, the economy changed fundamentally. Improved crops, fertilizers, and machinery ignited productivity and enabled agricultural & industrial output to skyrocket, exponentiating the economic output.

Because of innovation, a poor person today likely lives better than a rich person 200 years ago — in terms of access to varied food, life span, access to information and leisure activities (this is only generally speaking, and excludes psychological and social factors.)

The industrial revolution turned the zero-sum economy into a positive-sum economy by introducing a world in which people could produce and acquire assets without requiring the degradation of assets of other people.

In the post-industrial world we currently live in, advances in innovation enable quality of life to improve each year – by advancing technology, pharmacology, logistics, medicine, and all industries.

Because innovation is fundamentally driven by supply and demand, it is now in everyone’s personal interest to promote the wellbeing of every human. Innovation supply increases when more people have access to freedom, education, healthcare, and an ability to contribute to the global economy.

Today, almost 1 billion people are malnourished. If those 1 billion people were well-fed and had access to proper education, then they or their children could become researchers, doctors, and engineers –and the world (yourself included) would be better off.

This creates a flywheel effect.

As demand for innovation increases as people become richer (and demand new solutions,) this increases the size of the market for innovations – and makes it easier for ideas to be produced and realized.

Today, 3 Billion people are poor and live on less than $2.50 per day. To understand the impact that helping those people could have on your own life, let’s consider this example.

Let’s suppose that tomorrow, unfortunately, you’re diagnosed with cancer. As things are, you have access to all of the great hospitals and research and medicine that is presently available, to help you hopefully recover. Let’s imagine, however, that we were able to alleviate the poverty of those 3 billion people, and that 3.3% of them (100 million people) became cancer researchers. Imagine the state of cancer treatment if we had an additional 100 million additional cancer researchers, today. Wouldn’t you prefer to live in this world?

Could we have cured leukemia, myeloma, and Crohn’s disease by now, if we could embrace philanthropy as a societal requirement — even if selfishly motivated?

Ultimately, and perhaps counterintuitively, the more people who want the same thing as you, the more likely you are to get it.

Today, many people only contribute to nonprofit organizations when they feel that they have something personal to gain. The result of this conditional philanthropy is counter to the intention of the giver. In order to make the future of your life better, you don’t have to discriminate based on what you feel provides tangible value to causes that are essential to you. You should give indiscriminately, with the goal of alleviating suffering of all who are suffering. This will lead to better global education, and thus better lives for you and your children.

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