The Examination of Peter Singer's Solution to World Poverty

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I will begin by giving an exposition of Peter Singer’s paper, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” in which Singer discusses the need for individuals to donate substantially more towards preventing global poverty and famine. I will then argue that Singer does not understand that the proximity of people in poverty is a significant component in our decision to donate. I will reveal that distance is an important moral consideration in our choice towards donating or not donating to people in need abroad. I will also discuss a reply to my argument which explains that everyone has equal responsibility for reducing and preventing poverty no matter the reason. I will then argue that this response does not justify that some non-profit organizations have deceitful intentions with donations.

Singer’s (1972) argument states that individuals in prosperous nations demonstrate inadequate moral concerns and funding towards the standards of living of people in struggling countries (p.230). Singer continues the argument by explaining that individuals in affluent countries should have more worries and provide substantially more funding to individuals living in underprivileged countries. To defend this conclusion, Singer presents two reasons for giving more donations to people living in poverty. One of the reasons is that it is inhumane to experience hardship and death from lack of basic life necessities such as clean drinking water, food, and health care facilities (Singer, 1972, p.231). The other reason is that if it is in our ability to reduce global poverty and famine, without giving up something of equal or greater importance, we have an obligation to use all our possible resources and power (Singer, 1972, p.231). Singer (1972) provides an example of this reason by illustrating a scenario that involves seeing a child drowning in a shallow pond (p. 231). Singer (1972) explains that pulling the child out of the pond would mean getting the person’s clothes dirty and wet, but it is unimportant in comparison to a child’s life (p. 231). Thus, we have an obligation to save the child from drowning. Singer continues by deliberating on the absurd excuses’ we create for rarely donating to organizations that aim at improving living conditions in underprivileged countries. An issue declared in the paper is that the proximity of a person is an inexcusable explanation for not providing support and funds to countries in need (Singer, 1972, p.232). Singer (1972) explains that it does not matter if a person in need is in the same community or across the world distance should not be a factor when considering when giving donations (p. 232). The reasoning towards this explanation is that if countries are aiming for egalitarianism, then we cannot favor people that are physically near to us because this favoritism would be a form of discrimination (Singer, 1972, p.232).

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I will now argue that Singer does not adequately address the role distance plays in our decisions about donating or not donating to people living in poverty overseas. An attachment and compassion for people within our own country make us drawn towards aiding individuals in need within our own country. We should be designing services that assist underprivileged people in one’s country instead of sending funds and resources to people in need overseas. The reason for gravitating towards people in our own country is that resolving issues that negatively impact citizens along with creating adequate living conditions and a safe living environment relieves the burden off of future generations. Additionally, it ought to be the responsibility of a country to clean its own chaos and disorder. A country’s condition should not concern another country because of the issues that already need addressing and resolving in one’s own nation. Affluent countries spend substantial amounts of funds and resources to send to people living in distant and remote locations. Money that is put towards sending resources to countries overseas could be put to better use, such as investing in services into one’s own country that also provides a learning experience for other countries. The justification is that prosperous countries have better resources, control, authority in one’s own environment and over its citizens in comparison to an underprivileged nation. Therefore, affluent countries could utilize its funds to experiment with a variety of programs or services that will address poverty, starvation, and criminal activities. Through experimentation, countries should be able to select and adapt programs or services with the most beneficial impact, which ought to improve standards of living in the country. Thus, underprivileged countries could be able to learn and adapt the programs or services that will be effective and not waste valuable resources and funds.

An objection to my argument would be that everyone ought to have an equal responsibility to contribute donations that will reduce and prevent poverty abroad. Some will argue that problems occurring in underprivileged countries may not solely affect individuals living in those areas but also others in prosperous nations. For example, the growth of global poverty can lead to increases appearance of harmful circumstances such as water and air pollution, which can affect the wellness of individuals worldwide. Therefore, everyone should participate in the prevention of global poverty by donating to non-profit organizations. However, I will argue that individuals ought to be hesitant about donating to a non-profit organization due to deceiving intention of some charities. Some non-profit organization may be claiming to use donations to provide resources and supplies to countries with a high prevalence of poverty and famine but instead pretending to be a genuine charity, scamming people of money, and using donations for criminal activities or personal benefit. The use of donations for criminal activities such as funding human trafficking or terrorist activities ought to only add to disorder and harm occurring in the world. Thus, leading some people being skeptical about donating and reducing contributions to the prevention of global poverty and famine.

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