Blog post

Member Profile: Pablo Ollier

4 min read
9 Sept 2020

This profile is part of the "People of Giving What We Can" series.


Meet Pablo Ollier from Clermont-Ferrand, France. In January, he took The Giving What We Can Pledge and committed to giving 10% of his future income to help improve the lives of others. He's a philosophy teacher and competitive chess player. (He noted that chess goes well with philosophy because "it's helpful to learn how to accept defeat.")

Pablo is a theoretical defender of ‘sufficientism,’ the idea that we ought to give priority to helping those who are not sufficiently well off. This simple idea inspired him to give regularly to GiveDirectly's universal basic income program in Kenya. The program directly helps those in need, but he is also motivated to donate because it is an "evidence-based study of the viability of basic income in general."

"I like the fact that those cash transfers are unconditional. The philosophical idea behind it is to try and break the link between work and property."

When it comes to his motivation for pledging, Ollier points to his utilitarian philosophical reasoning. He believes:

  1. It is good to try to maximize utility (i.e. increase happiness and reduce suffering);
  2. He can give 10% of his income to help those in extreme poverty and increase their happiness without it harming him (he added “it can even help me to avoid buying unhelpful things”);
  3. Thus, giving 10% of his income is a morally good thing to do.

Pablo found that pledging was helpful for psychological reasons: "The pledge helps set a clear standard of giving significantly and regularly." He adds that it helps to give at the precise time he receives his income. "Thus, I have the impression that it's just one more tax – a morally good one that helps redistribute wealth to those who need it most."

For Pablo, giving didn’t just seem morally right, but also easy. He jests: "Each month, I only need two things to fulfil my pledge: enough battery in the mouse of my computer and to accept the horrendous idea that I will never be able to buy a golden watch".

"I think that people unfamiliar with giving not only miss out on the positive impact that we can have on the lives of others, but also the positive impact on ourselves. There is a strong satisfaction in doing what you think is good!"
"The Giving What We Can Pledge helps me in giving efficiently and regularly. Together with Effective Altruism Funds, it is easy to make donations and track the progress of my pledge."

His desire to affect change in the world extends to his work as a philosophy teacher:

"I try to make my students familiar with the basic principles of ethics in general and utilitarianism in particular. With the help of the Ancient Greek philosophers, I try to transmit the 2,500-year-old idea that the pursuit of money may well not be such a brilliant goal in life."

He likes how giving empowers him to act on his ethics in the present. When looking to the future he looks forward to seeing "more and more unconditional basic income experiments". He anticipates that increasing automation will reduce the need for human labour, and "that is a good thing because work is only a means, never a purpose in itself."

Pablo ended with a reflection on how his relationship with money was completely changed when he read the 6th book of "The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers," by Diogenes Laërtius. The book shows how Crates of Thebes gave away all his money and went on to have a far more interesting life than the wealthy Alexander the Great. An inspiring read, and as a plus, "the whole book is very funny!"

This interview is part of the “People of Giving What We Can" series which profiles a selection of the Giving What We Can community. The Giving What We Can is a community of people from all walks of life, with different perspectives and motivations for giving – all united by their desire to make a significant commitment to use their income to effectively helping others. Read more member stories. Share your effective giving story to help inspire others to give more, and more effectively.

For more information about Giving What We Can we recommend you check out our frequently asked questions, our effective giving recommendations, our giving pledges, and our homepage.