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The Singer Solution to World Poverty

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Peter Singer, a professor bioethics, addresses the dilemma of poverty in his article, The Singer Solution to World Poverty. He asserts that the prosperous individuals should donate money to overseas aid organizations to help the impoverished. However, his seemingly simple and straightforward proposition lays on a controversial topic that questions people’s moral and their own rights.

Singer's argument places the blame for a world of poverty related problems squarely on the shoulders of every American family and indeed on everyone one else. Americans spend nearly one-third of its income on unnecessary things. Singer thinks that spending money on these things while knowing that the money could be used to save lives is no better, morally, than getting paid for killing children. Singer's argument places blame on innocent American consumers, proposes an unrealistic solution and overlooks the real problem. Singer's argument is not completely invalid. It raises awareness of what is going on, and inspires us to question our own moral goodness.

Perhaps a few points of Singer's argument can be used to formulate a new plan to help these poor people oversees. However, the Singer Solution to World Poverty in its current form can be condensed to this: Americans should lead dismal lives and work as slaves to support the breeding habits of people in third world countries, because it is morally right. Why are we Americans to blame for living the way we've been taught to our whole lives? What about the governments of the countries where these poor children live? What about the irresponsible parents of these children? Americans work for their money, pay high taxes for the right to live in this country, and are entitled to do whatever they please with their money. Our economy is dependent on Americans spending their surplus money, not giving it to charity.

Mr. Singer’s whole argument is those who are well off are either not giving enough or not giving at all and that those who spend more money on themselves should use it instead for those in poverty. He uses two examples to make his point, the first of which is a film called “Central Station” in which a woman by the name of Dora found a possible family for this young boy, however she later finds out that he is too old and that he will be killed and chopped up for human parts. Ethically, she could not let this happen and so she got the boy out and prevented this from happening (249). Now Singer’s argument is that although she knew this was wrong it took another person’s perspective to make her realize it was wrong.

His other example was about a man named Bob who sacrificed a boy’s life for his car and although it was morally and ethically wrong, he points out that since the man had no connection with the boy it wasn’t morally or ethically wrong for him to save the car (250). From these two examples he is showing how some people are doing something, but not enough of it, and the other group are not doing anything at all. However, those two examples are a bit extreme and thus cloud the overall picture that the world should do more even if it is only can of food or a few dollars a month.

As to how I view this article written by Mr. Singer, I feel as though it is one long guilt trip, and not just for those who do not donate to charities or aid organizations, but also to those who do but do not give enough. Now to me, and most likely Mr. Singer, there are about a million excuses as to why people can’t give or do not want to give, although a few of those excuses are legit, such as a person not making enough income to even to give a few dollars, or losing a job or even a house. Those I think he can surely agree with. However another perspective he doesn’t talk about is that some of those in poverty are not doing more to get out of it. Granted there are various forces at work for those that are in poverty, but still he only chooses one aspect of the problem and not both sides.

Though this article is about a person’s ethics, I think he takes extreme views and punishes everyone, regardless if they give or not. Putting financial problems aside, and not worrying about where the money or food goes when you donate it, but doing a single act of charity, even if only once a month, is still ethically right just because it is a good deed and it helps someone who can’t help themselves, including those who are disabled or old. Then morally you have done a good thing and if you believe in karma then your life will receive good karma and maybe when someone sees you doing it, he or she will do the same act of kindness as well.

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