I saw Thomas Pogge give a talk on testing medical drugs on the global poor on Thursday (in the Politics Department), and give an Amnesty Lecture on Friday on the ‘War on Terror’. Last night I went to see him for the third time in three days, addressing the Balliol undergraduate PPE Society on Rawls’ two (domestic and international) theories of justice.
I had planned to go to the ‘Bollywood’ themed party in the GCR afterwards, but after talking 8-10 Pogge came back to Holywell Manor MCR with a bunch of us and we sat discussing global justice and charity until about half midnight.
The main topics were:
1) Toby’s proposal to give all his income over £8,000 (net, inflation adjusted) to charity.
2) The fact that Bill Gates – though he does a lot of good, in virtue of his large absolute contribution – isn’t particularly praiseworthy for denoting all over $2 billion to charity. (Note it’s a separate question whether he should in fact be praised – answer probably yes)
3) The suggestion that if we had a culture of announcing charitable contributions publicly (rather than keeping them private), while it might mean some giving was less virtuous, it would probably be better in terms of how much was given.
4) Pogge’s tax avoidance plan – which basically involved buying risky shares, and giving those that rise sharply to Oxfam (legally avoiding capital gains tax)
By the time I got back to college (12:45am) I was just able to see the last people leaving the party. Perhaps I didn’t miss much! Sitting around in an MCR discussing weighty moral/political matters with a leading professor is surely something that should be part of the Oxford graduate experience.