Response to Peter Singer’s Speech

Peter Singer’s speech on a solution to world poverty made a lot of good points concerning how to help those in need. He states that most people can afford to help starving children and that people are turning their backs on the needy. Where he fails though, is in actually providing a solution that will hold up over time. His focus on guilting those more fortunate into action and then guiding them to give $200 is no solution, but a call to give to those less fortunate instead of fixing the problem for good. In his speech he gives examples to try to guilt those listening into giving charitably.
He sites a book by NYU philosopher Peter Unger, titled, “Living High and Letting Die”. He goes on to paraphrase an example from the book that he thinks gives a great example towards American’s lack of charitable giving. His example is about a man named Bob who is nearly retired and has invested most of his savings into a rare and valuable old car. He has a lot of pride in the car and he enjoys taking care of it. He also enjoys that its rising value means he will always be able to sell it and live comfortably. He is out one day for a drive one day and park the car along some railroad tracks and goes for a walk along the tracks.
As he is walking he sees that a runaway train with no one aboard is headed for a small child farther down the track. The child is too far to warn of the danger and will be killed unless Bob throws a switch to put the train on the siding where his beloved car is parked. Throwing the switch will destroy his car and therefore his long time investment. Thinking of his joy in owning the car and the financial security it represents, Bob decides not to throw the switch and the child is killed. He uses this example comparatively to how the average American reacts to charitable giving.

He labels them as cruel people who choose their own livelihood over the lives of dying children, which is unfair. Commonly, those not giving are not looking into the eyes of a dying child but rather into a scary world where finances are always unsettling. In my personal experience guilting someone into doing something is the worst way to evoke passion for action. Forcing someone to do something is not nearly as effective as creating a want to do something. Over time guilt tripping makes the action lose steam while making someone want to do something can create a passion that lasts for a long time.
Let me follow Singers lead here and provide an example. Suppose that you would like to have your friend go to a new sushi restaurant with you. Would it be smarter to guilt him into going by using something against him to make him go, or would it be smarter to talk about how good the atmosphere and food is? Obviously it is much smarter to talk up the restaurant instead of sending your friend on a guilt trip. The guilt trip may only make your friend go once but making the friend want to go will result in many visits to the restaurant.
Creating a passion is the best way to call people to action and singer failed to do this. Instead, he should have used a more indirect method like talking about the benefits and contentedness that one can receive from charitable donation and selling them on the concept Another spot where his speech falls short is in providing a plausible solution to world poverty. Having everyone with disposable income give $200 to help feed hungry children solves none of the problems having to do with poor villages not being able to support their people.
In the article, “We can end global poverty…” the author describes a plan laid out by David Cameron that includes over 10 steps to end global poverty by 2030. Including such ideas as going green, going for growth, good government, and global partnership. The final report comes after 8 months of consultation with more than 5,000 public groups across 120 different countries. Citizens, governments, businesses, local charities, community groups and development experts all had a chance to contribute their ideas.
This type of initiative is what it takes to create a true end to world poverty, not just simply pleading that people give $200 to charity. I feel as if Singer never really thought to develop his idea thoroughly and just wanted something quick that he could easily get people to support. This is where his ethos breaks down. He no longer seems to be a person worth speaking to about the subject, but rather someone who wants a problem solved but doesn’t want to put in effort to come up with a real solution.
After analyzing his speech thoroughly I feel that Singer has a lot of passion for what he speaks about but fails to come up with real plausible solutions to the problems he is addressing. Singer may believe he has World Poverty all figured out but there are a few points he’s not thinking about. He used emotional stories about dying children to guilt his listeners into giving money. Though, Peter Singer makes a valid point that we should be helping children in need, what happens when everyone stops blowing their money on luxury items?
In his speech he says, “The formula is simple: whatever money you’re spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away. ” If we were to spend only money on necessities and donate the rest it would, in turn, cause economic distress. Jobs will begin to slowly deplete from our own economy here in America. Manufacturing jobs such as, furniture, computers, televisions, housing, retail, and many more would disappear. The sad fact of the matter is that poverty is a necessity and just like with all things you have to take the good with the bad.

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