Saturday, June 01, 2013

Join Wall Street. Save the World.

When I first saw the title of this, I was kind of optimistic. And in a way, it's a step in the right direction (WashingtonPost via Brian H):

Trigg makes money just to give it away. His logic is simple: The more he makes, the more good he can do.

He’s figured out just how to take measure of his contribution. His outlet of choice is the Against Malaria Foundation, considered one of the world’s most effective charities. It estimates that a $2,500 donation can save one life. A quantitative analyst at Trigg’s hedge fund can earn well more than $100,000 a year. By giving away half of a high finance salary, Trigg says, he can save many more lives than he could on an academic’s salary.

In another generation, giving something back might have more commonly led to a missionary stint digging wells in Kenya. This generation, perhaps more comfortable with data than labor, is leveraging its wealth for a better end. Instead of digging wells, it’s paying so that more wells are dug.

“A lot of people, they want to make a difference and end up in the Peace Corps and in the developing world without running water,” Trigg says, “and I can donate some of my time in the office and make more of a difference.”
In a way it's kind of sad - the idea that you should work in a field that you're not really passionate about, to make money to put to use in things that you do. It's a false choice. The article seems to divorce the signal markets make for valued skills from the fact that these actually have a measurable impact in helping society - ie undervalues the work that finance and other high paying fields do.

In considering whether Bill Gates will do more good for the world with his success of Microsoft or that of his foundation, I suspect, that in the final analysis, it would be Microsoft by a large margin. I don't fault Trigg for his altruism, but perhaps he is underestimating his impact of just making money versus giving it away...

Update: Chris Blattman's thoughts.

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