Years ago, I had a discussion with my girlfriend at the time in which I postulated that if a person really wanted to make the world a better place, they should work towards finding a job where they’re paid vast amounts of money which could then be invested charitably. She refused to the logic of this insight, arguing that taking such a job would somehow corrupt your soul or some nonsense. Well, the “Practical Ethics” blog offered by the University of Oxford agrees with me.
In fact, there are reasons for thinking that, if you spend your money wisely, you can do much more good by taking a lucrative career such as banking than by pursuing a conventional ‘ethical’ career such as charity work.
First, as a banker, you could earn well over £6million. By donating 50% of those earnings, you could pay for several charity workers. So you’d do several times as much good than if you were a charity worker yourself.
Second, if you decide not to be a charity worker, someone else will take your place, and so the benefit you provide would have happened anyway. In contrast, if you take a lucrative career and donate your earnings, your donations provide a benefit which would not have happened anyway.
Third, as a philanthropic banker, you can put your money anywhere. So you can fund only the very best causes. In contrast, as a charity worker, you are much more limited in your choice of where to work. Some causes are thousands of times more cost-effective than others, so this can be a big deal.
My girlfriend was guilty of a common supposition — that money itself is evil as opposed to being a neutral tool that can be applied in a variety of ways. She probably wanted to break up with me after I delivered my flawless argument, but knew that were she to do so, she would be denying herself access to my vast repertoire of sexual skills.