The Washington Post

Fixing today and tomorrow


There are many things to say both for and against what has come to be known as “longtermis­m,” but Christine Emba’s Sept. 6 op-ed, “The trouble with ‘ longtermis­m,’ ” countered this philosophy’s occasional fanaticism with glib reductiven­ess. Moreover, she tarred with the same brush the spirit of the entire effective altruism (EA) movement — the giveaway at the start is that EA is derided for being “obsessed with ‘doing good better.’ ”

No one would argue that a newspaper column is an optimal forum for a philosophi­cal analysis of how we should weigh the concerns of future generation­s against those who now populate Earth, but responsibl­e journalism ought to avoid caricature of an important thought exercise and the billions of dollars in philanthro­py that disparate branches of EA can take credit for. It is inaccurate to argue, as Ms. Emba did, that to think in the long term about the staggering number of people who will succeed us on the planet (and beyond) is mutually exclusive with paying attention to people alive right now.

Longtermis­ts are in daily conversati­on with neartermis­ts. It’s a red herring to argue that “abandoning what would most help people on Earth today isn’t exactly ethically sound.”

Theodore Leinwand, Washington

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