Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and the author of many books including “Animal Liberation,” tackles the subject of world poverty in his newly published book, “The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty.” Singer doesn’t lightly discuss this issue, but rather goes into great detail about how all those in the world that are not desperately poor are responsible for those who are.
Many disagree with Singer’s statements. Though there are many in the world that are generous to those in need, there are still many more who are not. But Singer has a special way of combining emotions with logic to make you see how we are all part of one global community, and therefore we all indeed share responsibility for each other.
Using some very compelling stories and anecdotes, Singer compares our moral responsibility to assist the less fortunate with our ethical decision to save a child drowning. He says, “Most of us are absolutely certain that we wouldn’t hesitate to save a drowning child, and that we would do it at considerable cost to ourselves. Yet while thousands of children die each day, we spend money on things we take for granted and would hardly notice if they were not there.”
This argument, despite the fact that it stirs up controversy, is very intriguing to me because I have always considered myself to be charitable. After reading Singer’s book, however, I have changed my mind. I am not doing nearly enough to help my fellow man. I’m not sure, however, that I can do what Singer suggests. But, he does offer a sensible process by which world poverty can be completely eradicated, and it doesn’t seem nearly as difficult as you would think.
Why don’t people give more to charity, especially those who are exceedingly wealthy? Singer explores this question and others, including, “How much does it cost to save a life?” Singer details how millions of people die from diseases that have simple and inexpensive cures, such as diarrhea, measles, and malaria. And he tries to put a price tag on a life by estimating how much it could cost to save a person from these dreadful diseases.
Finally, Singer successfully tugs at your sense of humanity by asking you to give up a few luxuries here and there to save a life. What he’s really asking is, “Would you save a life if you knew how little it really took to do so?”
I would. Would you?
The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty
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