Response to Peter Singer’s Solution for World Poverty: fin
Posted by meredithancret
Yes, this is the final piece in this series.
I’m breathing a bigger sigh of relief than you are, believe me.
I almost decided to just forget this last part, since there isn’t really that much new to add to my side of the argument, but I guess I can just mock the last remaining paragraphs of Singer’s argument. He deserves it. I had to write a goddamned essay about this article…and I couldn’t use these blogs as part of it either….too partisan.
Anyway, I’m still editing the rough draft of the essay, but ranting over here is nice.
At this point various objections may crop up. Someone may say: “If every citizen living in the affluent nations contributed his or her share I wouldn’t have to make such a drastic sacrifice, because long before such levels were reached, the resources would have been there to save the lives of all those children dying from lack of food or medical care. So why should I give more than my fair share?” Another, related, objection is that the Government ought to increase its overseas aid allocations, since that would spread the burden more equitably across all taxpayers.
Sorry, that was unprofessional.
What I meant to say was, what makes it our government’s job to take care of these countries anymore than it is my job?
Singer, find me the section of the United State’s constitution that says that we must take care of impoverished nations around the world…to the detriment of our own economy and society no less.
The United Nations is batshit crazy and I don’t even think their charter says such a thing.
Never mind the fact that it would be totally unethical and against the constitution (not like our current president gives a rat’s ass about that anyway really…) to raise taxes to fix the problems in some other country. That action is suspect enough when it’s done to help our own country’s economic woes, suspect even more so because it doesn’t work…
Yet the question of how much we ought to give is a matter to be decided in the real world —and that, sadly, is a world in which we know that most people do not, and in the immediate future will not, give substantial amounts to overseas aid agencies. We know, too, that at least in the next year, the United States Government is not going to meet even the very modest United Nations-recommended target of 0.7 percent of gross national product; at the moment it lags far below that, at 0.09 percent, not even half of Japan’s 0.22 percent or a tenth of Denmark’s 0.97 percent. Thus, we know that the money we can give beyond that theoretical “fair share” is still going to save lives that would otherwise be lost. While the idea that no one need do more than his or her fair share is a powerful one, should it prevail if we know that others are not doing their fair share and that children will die preventable deaths unless we do more than our fair share? That would be taking fairness too far.
One of the best things about the fact that this article was written in 1999 is that you can now look back at the countries that he references and see A.) Japan’s population since 1999 has been in a state of stagnation or downright decline…as has their economy. And Denmark’s economy is going through it’s own struggles.
Now, of course, I am not an economist. I am not claiming that large amount of money these countries put toward foreign aid every year is what has caused their problem.
I am saying it problem can’t have helped…
Thus, this ground for limiting how much we ought to give also fails. In the world as it is now, I can see no escape from the conclusion that each one of us with wealth surplus to his or her essential needs should be giving most of it to help people suffering from poverty so dire as to be life-threatening. That’s right: I’m saying that you shouldn’t buy that new car, take that cruise, redecorate the house or get that pricey new suit. After all, a $1,000 suit could save five children’s lives.
Because if we had them we would have to feel like murderers.
I know I already said this in the fourth part of this series, but Singer is advocating for a world in which he takes jobs away from people who need them here in our own country as well. Or has he forgotten that people build those cars (I thought the auto industries were some of the ones that were “too big to fail”?), staff cruises, build houses, decorate houses, and make clothing.
I guess we aren’t as deserving since we were born in America…
So how does my philosophy break down in dollars and cents? An American household with an income of $50,000 spends around $30,000 annually on necessities, according to the Conference Board, a nonprofit economic research organization. Therefore, for a household bringing in $50,000 a year, donations to help the world’s poor should be as close as possible to $20,000. The $30,000 required for necessities holds for higher incomes as well. So a household making $100,000 could cut a yearly check for $70,000. Again, the formula is simple: whatever money you’re spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away.
That may be your bucket, but you don’t need that bucket, it is a luxury item. Those are big no-no’s. Hand it over.
(can you tell I’ve ceased to be serious and just started to mock Singer?)
Now, evolutionary psychologists tell us that human nature just isn’t sufficiently altruistic to make it plausible that many people will sacrifice so much for strangers. On the facts of human nature, they might be right, but they would be wrong to draw a moral conclusion from those facts. If it is the case that we ought to do things that, predictably, most of us won’t do, then let’s face that fact head-on. Then, if we value the life of a child more than going to fancy restaurants, the next time we dine out we will know that we could have done something better with our money. If that makes living a morally decent life extremely arduous, well, then that is the way things are. If we don’t do it, then we should at least know that we are failing to live a morally decent life —not because it is good to wallow in guilt but because knowing where we should be going is the first step toward heading in that direction.
Maybe it’s not a matter of valuing a meal at a nice restaurant over the life of a child, Singer. Did you ever stop to consider the fact that you might be simplifying this a bit too much?
Maybe I value the efforts of a local entrepreneur. Maybe I value the job security of a college student, working their way through their bachelor’s degree. Maybe I value the economic stability of my own country over the
economic stability (well…let’s face, not the economic stability. You weren’t trying to build a stable economy with this charity.) false loyalty of some impoverished country that you’ve chosen to feed for the time being. When you get bored you’ll move on to another country, another project…and screw the fact that you haven’t actually helped the country accomplish anything.
At least you looked good for your 15 minutes.
When Bob first grasped the dilemma that faced him as he stood by that railway switch, he must have thought how extraordinarily unlucky he was to be placed in a situation in which he must choose between the life of an innocent child and the sacrifice of most of his savings. But he was not unlucky at all. We are all in that situation.
About meredithancretMy name is Meredith and I’m a social media addict. I’m a political science major who basically eats, sleeps, and breathes politics…when I’m not watching NCIS, reading fantasy novels, or baking. Liberals seem to hate me for my very existence, it might have something to do with my being a conservative who is both female and gay…
Posted on 09/15/2011, in conservatives, crazy, liberals, Obama, Peter Singer, politics, rant, Socialism, Uncategorized, welfare and tagged budget, college, conservative, constitution, economics, Liberal, Peter Singer, socialism, welfare. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.