Doing well by doing good: careers that benefit others also benefit you

post by William_MacAskill · 2013-04-18T04:00:02.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW · Legacy · None comments

To what extent do self-interest and altruism conflict? In my latest Quartz article, I suggest that they conflict less than you might think.

Pursuing a career that makes the world a better place has a range of personal benefits. There's a decent case to be made that aiming to do good is one of the best ways of having a career that is personally satisfying. In general, I think that a great research program for practical ethics is to find out what policies or personal activities are in the class of "win-wins". That is: what actions or activities can we recommend that, if undertaken, make the actor personally better off and also result in a better outcome for others? (Activities that improve self-control, such as mindfulness meditation, might be in this category.). And what policies can we recommend that both make the home country better off, but also have great benefits for the citizens of other countries? (More relaxed immigration policies might be in this category).

Promoting these activities is morally important both because they have benefits for the world and because they have a good chance of successfully being taken up. I worry that recommendations in this category are often neglected by practical ethics simply because "acting morally" has such strong connotations of self-sacrifice. (It sounds kind of odd to talk of "the moral imperative to promoting mindfulness meditation".) But it need not be so. What's good for yourself and what's good for the world are logically independent, and sometimes they overlap in unexpected ways. We should try to find those ways and champion them.

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