The average American is richer than more than 90 percent of the world’s population. Shocking, isn’t it? Because of this, wouldn’t the right thing to do be sharing our prosperity with our brethren? Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics, calls attention to the need of food and medicine in many parts of the world in his article “The Singer Solution to World Poverty”. He claims the formula to ending poverty is simple; “whatever money you’re spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away.
While it may sound morally right to give up our selfish ways and give to the less fortunate, Singer’s solution isn’t very realistic as he disregards many key factors. Some may even call his solution naive. Although I grant that donating large portions of our income overseas would be considered morally right, I still maintain that such donations would destroy our economy and make those countries dependent on donations. Some may argue that it is morally right to give up luxuries to help others. In Proverbs, one can summarize part of chapter 3 to that one must “help thy neighbor”.
Also in the Bible, it states “he who resists temptation shall receive the crown of life”. Religious affiliation aside, giving to others as a selfless act is always commendable. That idea granted, isn’t the complete denial to one’s wants dehumanizing? The majority of the earth lives with only necessities: the plants and animals. Necessities are the things we need for survival, so food, water, and a place to live are all we can have for Singer’s solution. In a discussion about what constitutes the self in my English class, many have concluded that the things one associates oneself with determine who one is.
Without any luxuries, who are we? Our natural instinct is to want things we don’t need. The universal understanding of economics is that scarcity will always persist as there are unlimited wants but limited resources. While donating money to the less fortunate is morally good, it is morally bad to have humans give up everything except necessities. More importantly, however, donating all luxury money to overseas aid organizations will just create third world dependency on donation money. Throwing all this money at a problem will not solve it if it is not used in the most resourceful way.
Oversea aid organizations simply feed and clothe the poor. Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest people in the world, along with other billionaires has donated large amounts of money and there has been no large change in poverty, as the money was used on disposables, food and clothing. They are not our children, and if we insist on treating them so, we must prepare them to live on their own. In the documentary “Pennies A Day”, the Grameen Bank gives loans known as microcredit to poor rural families that usually live of a dollar a day in the Middle East.
Muhammad Yunus, the inventor of microcredit, saw that in first world countries that large loans were approved to people who already have a lot of money. He questions why one needs so much anyways and invented smaller loans, about $25, and also provided cell phones for the people his bank was helping. Middle Eastern women were usually the recipients of such loans, and they used them wisely, establishing either a small farm at their home or even their own small business that would allow them to fend for themselves.
As a Chinese proverb says “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish and you feed him for the rest of his life. ” Giving large amounts of money to aid programs overseas would create dependency, considering that Singer referred to organizations such as UNICEF and Oxfam America that just give clothing and food to the poor. More significantly, giving all money ordinarily spent on luxuries would destroy the American economy. Singer does not seem to be aware of why Americans are richer than most of the world.
America has a capitalist, free market, economy which is prosperous due to American consumerism. If people were to suddenly stop buying luxuries, there would be an excess supply with little demand, lowering prices, and ultimately causing businesses to go bankrupt or out of commission, laying off workers either way. This happened after a period of economic prosperity, the Roaring Twenties, being a major component of the Great Depression. How can we help others if we are suffering as well? It is also evident that the free market system is the best for overall economic prosperity.
American businesses partake in Special Economic Zones in Asia, particularly China, in which the communist economic system is replaced with the free market system and now China is rising economically from the poverty that prevailed with communism. Without consumerism, we might as well get aid from other countries. Giving all money spent on . luxuries would be extremely detrimental to our economy. In a perfect world, no one is starving and sick. Unfortunately we live in the real world, and Singer’s solution to poverty fails to acknowledge that.
Donating all money not used on necessities is unnecessary and will result in more cons than pros. The pro of ending poverty in third world countries would prove to just be temporary, as our economy will begin to fall, and we will not even have money to provide to overseas countries. Singer seems to disregard many key factors of the economy and how one should really help people in his solution. Donating money to aid the less fortunate is not a bad action, but there are many better ways to do it without taking almost everything away from us that are fortunate.
Courtney from Study Moose
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