If you discovered a pill that would cure AIDS, would you share it? If you discovered a magical bean that could diminish starvation, would you plant it? What about buying one less cup of designer coffee or that pair of shoes because they are on sale? Would you be able to give up something insignificant in order to give someone the most precious gift of all, life? Peter Singer argues, we all have a moral obligation to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
In Peter Singer’s New York Times article entitled, “The Singer Solution to World Poverty” he challenges citizens of first world countries to donate any money that is not used for day to day necessities to go towards charities that help feed, clothe, and medicate people in extreme poverty. He states that money spent at an expensive dinner, for a new suit, or on vacation could and should be used instead to save lives (Singer).
Singer’s argument is unreasonable for the average American.
The majority of American citizens are not at a financial point in their lives where they are able to give such generous donations. The ones that are, should give. Singer argues 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” (Singer 4), he fails to consider that over 20 million Americans are enrolled in college (NCES).
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These people should not be held to the same standards as those people who have careers and are working in a field of their choice, making good money.
Instead of trying to force people who are not yet in a position to give their money Singer should suggest that instead of giving their money students should give their time and talents to helping others that are in need. A law student could focus on how to change government policies so that taxes that are taken out of taxpayer’s paychecks can actually go towards overseas aid agencies that are already in place. A student in the medical field can focus their time and talents on drugs that can help eradicate diseases that claim millions of innocent lives.
A student studying engineering can focus on designing cheaper and energy efficient ways to bring clean water and electricity to small villages. Perhaps, a person studying education can brainstorm ideas to implement lesson plans into schools that teach kids the importance of empathy and giving back. Singer’s argument that all people making over the amount of money that it takes to simply survive is an unfair burden to put on the average American’s conscious.
As of July 2012 about 25% of Americans had no money in a savings account, only about 40% of Americans were saving for retirement, and the average household debt was over 117,000 dollars (Statistic Brain).
The rule of thumb is that every person should have enough money saved to cover 6 months in expenses. In an economy like America’s where job security is diminishing it is unreasonable to expect others to sacrifice their wellbeing and future for other people.
This moral obligation should be put off until the person gets to a point where they can help people without sacrificing their own livelihood. Without this being taken into consideration it is possible and likely that these very same people will find themselves on the receiving side of charity in the near future. However, Singer is right in expecting more of the nations wealthiest. The burden should fall on those who are well above the poverty line and have a large enough savings that retirement, debt, and college funds for their kids and grandchildren would never be an issue.
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In Singers article he states that, “ $200 in donations would help a sickly 2-year-old transform into a healthy 6-year-old”(Singer 2).
If this is the case then perhaps people earning in the top tiers of this nation should be obligated to help. CNBS’s study on charitable giving states that, Americans that make between $50,000 and $75,000 year give an average of 7. 6 percent to charity. Americans that make $100,000 give a little more than 4 percent of their income to charity. Americans that make over $200,000 only give about half that at 2. 8 percent (Frank).
It would make much more sense for people who make less and have more debt to give at a lower percentage. Once they meet their financial obligations they will be able to spend more because they will have a higher disposable income that can then be given to those who are less fortunate. If people in the top 1% of the country could actually give a higher percentage of their disposable income that would benefit a larger number of people with absolutely no negative impact on their lifestyle, and also take pressure off those that are not yet in a position to give.
The weight of the underprivileged shouldn’t be pawned off on those that are pursing an education or those that haven’t reached their high point in life. There are enough financial resources in the world to help those that need it while allowing others to climb to their pinnacle in life. In an article written by clinical psychologist Dr. Dreyfus he explains the importance of making sure that you are operating at your very best in order to be able to help the maximum amount of people at the most efficient rate.
At the beginning of every flight the flight attendant stands in the aisle and gives a speech about what to do in the event that the plane’s cabin begins to lose pressure. He or she instructs passengers to be sure to place their oxygen mask on first before helping the young, old, or hurt. This can also be seen as a metaphor for life. How can you help lead others out of danger if you are not out of danger yourself?