Scott made a good post about vegetarianism.
But the overall line of reasoning sounds to me like:
“There’s a pretty good case that one is morally compelled to pay for people in the developing world to have shoes, because it looks pretty clear now that people in the developing world have feet that can benefit a lot from shoes.
However, there is this interesting argument that it is ok to not buy shoes, and offset the failing through donating a small amount to effective charities.”
— which I think many Effective Altruists would consider at least strange and inefficient way of approaching the question of what one should do, though it does arrive at the correct answer. In particular, why take the detour through an obligation to do something that is apparently not as cost-effective as the offsetting activity? (If it were as cost effective, we would not prefer to do the offsetting activity). That it would be better to replace the first activity with the second seems like it should cast doubt on the reasoning that originally suggested the first activity. Assuming cost-effectively doing good is the goal.
That is, perhaps shoes are cost-effective. Perhaps AMF is. One thing is for sure though: it can’t be that shoes are one of the most cost-effective interventions and can also be cost-effectively offset by donating to AMF instead. If you believe that shoes can be offset, this demonstrates that shoes are less cost-effective than the offset, and so of little relevance to Effective Altruists. We should just do the ‘offset’ activity to begin with.
Does the above line of reasoning make more sense in the case of vegetarianism? If so, what is the difference? I have some answers, but I’m curious about which ones matter to others.