A PPE student at Harris Manchester has pledged to give ten percent of all his future earnings to charity.
Tom Rowlands decided to make his pledge after listening to a talk by Dr Toby Ord, the founder of ‘Giving What We Can’- an international society dedicated to eliminating poverty in the developing world. He has calculated that the amount he contributes to charity over his lifetime could be as much as £1million.
Rowlands believes his pledge to be manageable and efficient. Student loan repayments would be deducted from his future earnings before the ten percent charitable donation is made and his plans factor in inflation. He was keen to point out that he would stand by his pledge whatever his future circumstances were, ‘Even if I was on minimum wage I would give ten percent. I would still be rich compared to most people in the world. This sounds counter intuitive, of course things would still be hard for me, but I’d still be pretty damn lucky.’
Dr Ord is a post-doctoral research fellow in ethics at Balliol College and describes himself as a moral philosopher. The ‘Giving What We Can’ website claims that if a person earning £15,000 a year contributed ten percent of their earnings to charity they could save five lives. The campaign advocates making slight life changes rather than huge sacrifices, to ensure consistent charitable giving to the “most cost effective charities”. Dr Ord said of the campaign: “Once you get used to the idea, it is not actually that much of a burden. I feel much more purposeful in life. What is difficult is agonizing over whether you can justify each luxury.”
Rowlands, who is considering a career in politics, said: “I would still do this regardless of whatever job I go into, I’ve certainly considered many options other than politics. If I decided to become a banker I would still give ten percent.”
He responded to criticisms of self-righteousness by saying: “Everyone in Oxford makes jokes about ‘polishing halos’, but I think I’m fairly sure that what I’m doing is for the general good, so it doesn’t bother me if I get a bit of stick from my peers.”
Rowlands added: “Loads of Oxford students do loads of stuff for charity, its not about making a contribution its about doing it in the most effective way. It’s really discriminating, that’s what makes it different.”
Peter Swann, a third year student from St Edmund Hall, was enthusiastic about the pledge: “It’s like the tithe system, it seems proportional and fair. I think it’s a wise and sensible choice. I’d like to think that I’d do the same thing but it’s a very bold decision.”
However Rupert Flint-Cahan, a second year Wadamite, said, “I think it’s a really positive thing to do but I’d like to see whether he’s actually able to stand by it. If he earns a small amount of money he may not be able to manage it. I do think it’s a bit smug though” But he conceded that: “If charities profit from it he can be as smug as he likes.”
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