Do you think every person has a moral obligation to work at the best paying job they can attain, live off as little as they can manage, and donate the rest to the most efficient charity they can find?

Given the way many in the wealthy parts of the world live, this is a compelling question. I think, however, that as posed the answer must be "no." For one thing, the best paying jobs may sometimes contribute more bads than goods to the world. For example, in some circumstances criminal activity or highly polluting industry may offer the best paying job. Also, it is not morally obligatory to live off as little as one can manage, giving away the rest to charity. People have obligations to themselves as well as to others, and one must balance what one owes to others against what one owes oneself. Finally, it's important to understand that some acts are morally admirable without being morally obligatory; and from where I sit extraordinary self-sacrifice for the sake of charity to others counts as just such an act. Having said that, it remains true, I think, as a matter of judgment, that many people in wealthier parts of the world live in ways that have tipped the balance excessively in the direction of self over others--becoming, in short, selfish and gluttonous. Given the serious environmental consequences of our excessive population and excessive consumption patterns, it has become morally obligatory for many of us to live off significantly less than we have been, whether we donate the remainder to charity or not. Living in less consumptive ways may, in fact, require not acquiring the best paying job possible, as many of the best paying jobs are part of highly consumptive enterprises.

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