Thursday, February 19, 2009

Singer's Plan to End Global Poverty

Peter Singer's new book lays out his plan for ending global poverty, in which over 3 billion human beings live on less than $2 a day (and a shocking 1 billion live on less than about $1.25 a day for all their essential needs). As this profile in The Observer explains, here is a way for the most privileged human beings to discharge their duties to the most poor:

Every person in the developed world ought to give at least 5% of their annual income to poverty relief efforts (such as Oxfam or Unicef). The rich ought to give more.

And to address the ad hominem that always follows Singer's argument: He gives about 25% of his annual income to Oxfam.

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At 12:15 PM , Anonymous Lani said...

It's my experience, when teaching Singer's "Famine, Affluence and Morality," that the reason people dislike him is because he is such a good philosopher that one is forced to either admit his claims or just say, "oh well, I'm selfish and I don't care about the starving people." I have had students take the latter option, although not in exactly those words. Hurrah for Peter Singer and thanks for posting this.

At 5:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are we including cultural differences in living standards, relative values, and international CPI differences here?
Not arguing with the need for poverty relief, just pointing out that USD$20,000 is one man's poverty and another's obscene wealth.

At 7:54 PM , Blogger Joseph Orosco said...


That's a good question. Those figures I mention are usually given in terms of Purchase Price Parity which means the equivalent purchasing power in local currency of $1.25 or $2 USD. So the idea is to imagine being able to acquire all one needed (food, shelter, medicine, etc) in the U.S. on about $35- $60/month. That would be significantly below federal poverty guidelines.

At 6:11 PM , Anonymous Galen said...

I don't know enough about Singer to know whether he would accept the main premise, but here's a short article that may be of interest:

I think we should just deny that future generations have equal value.


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