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Unformatted text preview: and What Should You? - New Yor k Times What marks Krav insky from the rest of us is that he takes the equal v alue of all human life as a guide to life,
not just as a nice piece of rhetoric. He acknowledges that some people think he is crazy , and ev en his wife
say s she believ es that he goes too far. One of her arguments against the kidney donation was that one of
their children may one day need a kidney , and Zell could be the only compatible donor. Krav insky ’s lov e for
his children is, as far as I can tell, as strong as that of any normal parent. Such attachments are part of our
nature, no doubt the product of our ev olution as mammals who giv e birth to children, who for an unusually
long time require our assistance in order to surv iv e. But that does not, in Krav insky ’s v iew, justify our
placing a v alue on the liv es of our children that is thousands of times greater than the v alue we place on the
liv es of the children of strangers. Asked if he would allow his child to die if it would enable a thousand
children to liv e, Krav insky said y es. I ndeed, he has said he would permit his child to die ev en if this enabled
only two other children to liv e. Nev ertheless, to appease his wife, he recently went back into real estate,
made some money and bought the family a larger home. But he still remains committed to giv ing away as
much as possible, subject only to keeping his domestic life reasonably tranquil.
Buffett say s he believ es in giv ing his children “enough so they feel they could do any thing, but not so much
that they could do nothing.” T hat means, in his judgment, “a few hundred thousand” each. I n absolute
terms, that is far more than most Americans are able to leav e their children and, by Krav insky ’s standard,
certainly too much. (Krav insky say s that the hard part is not giv ing away the first $45 million but the last
$1 0,000, when y ou hav e to liv e so cheaply that y ou can’t function in the business world.) But ev en if Buffett
left each of his three children a million dollars each, he would still hav e giv en away more than 99.99 percent
of his wealth. When someone does that much — especially in a society in which the norm is to leav e most of
y our wealth to y our children — it is better to praise them than to cav il about the ex tra few hundred
thousand dollars they might hav e giv en.
Philosophers like Liam Murphy of New Y ork Univ ersity and my colleague Kwame Anthony Appiah at
Princeton contend that our obligations are limited to carry ing our fair share of the burden of reliev ing global
pov erty . T hey would hav e us calculate how much would be required to ensure that the world’s poorest
people hav e a chance at a decent life, and then div ide this sum among the affluent. T hat would giv e us each
an amount to donate, and hav ing giv en that, we would hav e fulfilled our obligations to the poor.
What might that fair amount be? One way of calculating it would be to take as our target, at least for the
nex t nine y ears, the Millennium Dev elopment Goals,...
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- Spring '11