Wealthy hard working people around the world, earn their wealth through honesty and discipline, but does that mean that they must share their wealth with the poor? In the article “The Singer Solution to World Poverty” by Peter Singer, he argues that every day we as humans are immorally spending money on ourselves rather than spending that money on reducing the world’s poverty (Singer 2018). Throughout the article, Singer gives his audience a sequence of interesting examples questioning the decision of people of how they choose to spend their money: “going out to nice restaurants, buying new clothes because the old ones are no longer stylish… so much of people’s income is spent on things not essential to the preservation of our lives and health” (Singer 2018: 231). Singer strongly believes that suppressing income is the same as giving a kid a chance to starve to death. Therefore, Singer proposes the moral thing to do to end world poverty is to give up regular extravagances, by giving a huge amount of money that could aid dying and starving children.
This essay explains Singer’s solution to aiding world poverty through the idea of the wealthy giving to the poor, but he fails to address the underlying issue in doing so.
Plan: 1. Singer’s Argument 2. Views opposed to Singer’s argument 3. Conclusion
Section 1: Singer’s Argument
In his article, Singer shares the solution whatever money people spend on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away to end the poverty of the world (Singer 2018). Furthermore, Singer uses examples of Dora and Bob in his essay to further explain to his audience his solution for salvation: Dora, who is a retired schoolteacher suddenly has an opportunity to pocket $1,000 by selling an orphaned boy who will be killed for his organs, later saves the child; and Bob who has invested all his money in a rare car which cannot be insured, is his pride and joy (Singer 2018). One day Bob stumbles upon a life saving situation where he can either save a child or his precious car (Garrett 2018). Singer uses Bob and Dora, two individuals who chose money and their wants over an innocent child’s life and compares them to his audience saying “one genuine difference between Bob and those who can afford to donate overseas aid organizations but don’t is that only Bob can save the child on the tracks, whereas there are hundreds of millions of people who can give $200 to overseas aid organizations” (Singer 2018: 234). The problem is “most us aren’t doing it” (Singer 2018: 234). Singer even goes to further lengths where he compares the lack of help people give to starving children to when “Nazi atrocities were being committed” and those who did nothing to stop it (Singer 2018: 234). He bases his logic on what the moral thing to do is. Philosophist Jan Narveson also argues that “we must feed the hungry, as a matter of justice” (Garret 2018: 81). Narveson argues about what we are obligated to do and what can be forced to do. Charity is a voluntary act and we are not forced to donate, so is feeding the poor doing justice or charity? Is it wrong to let the starving die? Is letting someone die the same as taking a life? These are the questions we must ask ourselves according to Narveson (Garret 2018). From the utilitarian view, if we calculate the odds of choosing to feed the starving and suffering over leisure activities, is it possible to choose which ultimately promotes the greater good (Garret 2018). In addition, Singer tries to convince us that to live an empathetic and moral life, we need to spend our money not on the things we find extravagant, but on saving children in need because “a $1000 suit could save five children’s lives” (Singer 2018: 236). By giving the examples of Dora, and Bob, and their scenarios and the decisions they chose to make, Singer raises a question: “what is the ethical distinction between a Brazilian who sells a homeless child to an organ peddlers and an American who already has a TV and upgrades to a better one – knowing that money can be donated to an organization that would use it to save the lives of kids in need” (Singer 2018: 232)? The answer – because when you have met that child and see the conditions he is living in, it is more of a “shot in the heart” and a sense of heartlessness and grief compared to when you have not met or seen his hardships before (Singer 2018: 232). He goes on to compare Dora’s situation and decision to “the average family in the United States” and how they “spend almost one-third of their income on things that are no more necessary to them than Dora’s new TV” (Singer 2018: 231).
Situation 2: Views Opposed to Singer’s argument
Although Singer’s solution of donating money to a homeless, dying child can help. His idea is too impractical and demanding. An everyday, “average family” barely have enough money to pay their taxes and have loads of responsibilities of their own. I feel that Singer’s solution is a very bold and a moral one and sure, money can save a child’s life by buying that child food, clothing, shelter, etc. But the question I have for Singer is, can money buy that child love and happiness? The answer to that is, no it cannot. Money can buy a child all the necessities that he/she needs to survive, but what money cannot buy is love, compassion, and empathy for that child. When that child grows up, he/she is not going to have anyone or anything to love, to most people that child’s purpose in this world is just to survive the worst to come. Is our moral duty only to give the child enough money to survive? The idea of everyone donating the money we are saving for ourselves to organizations such as Unicef is also unrealistic because we as humans cannot change overnight; changing this would take us years to do because a lot of us are so accustomed to the way we have lived for all our life. However, according to Singer it is wrong to live like this because we are failing to fulfil our moral duty. Singer fails to address the issue that preventing the death of the child is only in the hands of Bob, while not giving to charity is the hands of many people (Singer 2018). The situation significantly becomes much more different when we are placed in a scenario like Bobs rather than sitting at home and simply choosing not to donate. Having the ability to save the life of the child who is about to die in front of us rather than one who is in a foreign country are two different situations. Also one may simply argue that the child would have died had Bob decided that morning not to go to the railroad tracks, so why should Bob be burdened with the choice he had made (Singer 2018).
Ultimately, Singer has a point where we as humans want all the extravagant and expensive things of the world that will get us nowhere and do us no good; but how we choose to spend our hard-earned money is none of Singer’s business. Singer does a very poor job to convince his audience of his solution by being too demanding. Although, I strongly agree that poverty is a major issue and needs to be resolved and payed more attention to, he uses emphasised examples and scenarios that portrays us as heartless tyrants. For example, when Singer compares people who do not donate money to the poor, with the Nazis. People in America already have many responsibilities of their own and have their own children to take care of, and it is illogical to rely on humans to give away their own money to strangers they have not even seen before. According to Unicef, the United States has the second highest population of child poverty in the list of developed countries (Unicef). Regardless of my disagreement with Singer’s logic, I do believe we as humans need to think as one and work as one to end world issues; but nonetheless, I do not think Singer’s solution is a legitimate one.