“What should a Billionaire Give” by Peter Singer
Article Critique #3
Peter Singer is an Australian moral philosopher. He is currently working as a professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and is also a professor for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. He is well known for his different approaches on ethical issues and also includes his own perspectives. He is also known for his book entitled “Animal Liberation”, and work involving abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, and world poverty. In June 2012, Singer was named a Companion of the Order of Australia for “eminent service to philosophy and bioethics as a leader of public debate and communicator of ideas in the areas of global poverty, animal welfare and the human condition.”
Singer begins “What Should a Billionaire Give-and What Should You?” by asking, “What is a human life worth?” No human being wants to give it a distinct price, but they know it would be a very large amount of money. Most people would also agree that every human life would bear the same value, usually in the millions.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft began to donate money after learning about a disease that kills half a million children each year. This disease is called rotavirus. He was astonished that more money and attention wasn’t being given to stopping this disease. It also shocked him to know that some people, according to their actions, don’t consider all human lives to be of equal value. This is when Bill and Melinda Gates stepped in. During the World Health Assembly, Bill Gates made a speech that addressed the belief in equal value of all human life. They also set up a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for grant-making that supports initiatives in education, world health and population, and community giving in the Pacific Northwest.
In the world today, some people are richer than anyone has ever been, while others struggle to find and obtain the necessities of life. Wealthy philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett give millions and billions away to health-related charities. They give so much money, more than most of us could hope to give. This is obviously a wonderful thing; but do the ends justify the means? Some philanthropists may be driven only by a sense of duty. The wealthy are obligated to share their wealth with the less fortunate. However, when you think about the effect of the money given by rich people, the reason for their giving seems insignificant.
Nevertheless, Singer continues on the quest to discover and analyze the motives of the wealthy when giving to those less fortunate. He notes that in the case of Gates and Buffet, as well as many other wealthy philanthropists, God is not the reason that promotes them to give.
The author then discusses whether the wealthy are, in fact, obliged to give, and if so, how much. He says that one’s wealth is more often than not related to the accident of where that person is brought up. Again he asks, “Is a rich person obligated to give; or do they deserve to do what they please with their own personal money, the fruits of their labor?” Do they deserve to live in luxury while others can’t afford clean water?
Singer uses the following example: “You walk by a pond, and a child is drowning. Even though it’s not your fault, should you help them out if it doesn’t inconvenience you?” Most would answer yes and say that doing anything else would be wrong. Applying this to the wealthy man and the poor of our world, are they obligated to help the poor if it is not an inconvenience? All of this being said, though private philanthropists are a tremendous help, is it their job alone to provide money to the needy? Singer argues that it should be primarily the government’s job. The United States does not give very much in comparison to other countries, even with the help of private donations. Even if private donations don’t make a very significant impact on reducing...
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