Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty by Peter Singer

Peter Singer believes we can end world poverty. This can be accomplished if those of us in the affluent countries donate a portion of our income to the poorest of the poor. Singer’s focus is primarily on those in the upper income brackets, but everyone, no matter your economic class, will find this book compelling. A website for the book is here.

Singer refutes many of the reasons that people will not give. One concept is the notion of “Fair Share.” For example, if I know others are not going to donate their money to help the poor, why should I? He also constructs several hypothetical situations that are quite interesting and thought-provoking. Singer can be seen discussing one of these hypothetical situations on the Amazon page for the book (just scroll down a bit to the video).

Singer is also calling on us to rethink our consumer culture and where we place value. Early on he tells the reader that if he or she is drinking bottled water then the reader has extra income that could be put to better use. Of course, he views the bottled water as far from a necessity, which is a point I agree with, although I am guilty of similar purchases (for me – it’s coffee).

Those who find the bottled water example too harsh should know that most of his criticism is on items that are considerably more extravagant, such as incredibly expensive watches, yachts, etc. In reality, many of us in the U.S. cannot afford these items, but the point is that many can. Still, it has made me think about what I spend money on and how much of my income is really spent on things I don’t need. This is not a first for me to reflect on this, but Singer forced me to consider it more deeply.

Highly recommended!


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