The book is…troublesome. Especially from the viewpoint of having just recently finished reading Atlas Shrugged, which was the definitive free-market, virtue of self-interest tale of the 20th century, I did find this book over the top, and outright insulting in a lot of ways. It devotes quite a few chapters to ragging on our extravagant lifestyle, right down to the little things like bottled water. The author makes extended metaphors and philosophical slippery slope arguments which allow him to all but outright accuse the average person of mass murder for not giving more.
More interesting as the book moves on, the author explores the psychology of giving, studies on human behavior, what tugs our heartstrings and what does not. Moreover, he spends considerable time examining the charitable opportunities out there (unsurprisingly, most of them in
Toward the end of the book, the author lays out his plan for ending poverty, complete with a general guideline of what percentage of their income the more fortunate should be willing to give. This does seem to be targeted toward the more affluent readers, beginning with those who are significantly rich, and using a tiered guideline down to those who make $100,000 per year or more. No specific parameters are outlined for those earning less than that (though it is interesting to note that, according to the author’s statistics, it is the poorest among us who currently give the largest percentage of their income to charity.)
As I said, it’s a tough read. It is particularly difficult to get through the early chapters of the book without feeling personally attacked and defensive. Make of it what you will, but I would still recommend it. Whether it changes your life, in a big way or a small way, or whether you disagree with his philosophy…it did make me step back and examine my life, and as Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”