In the end, what is the ethical distinction between a Brazilian who sells a homeless child to organ peddlers and an American who already has a TV and upgrades to a better one — knowing that the money could be donated to an organization that would use it to save the lives of kids in need?
Does Peter Singer have the solution to world poverty?
For starters, I'm not a utilitarian, so that's going to take some of the wind out of the sails of his argument for me. Also, his principles lead him to some other conclusions (animal rights equal with people, euthanasia, etc.) that I disagree with.
However, I think his conclusion here is powerful. More of us need to wrestle with it and I need to wrestle with it better personally.
In case you haven't read it, the article says Singer gives a fifth of his personal income in this regard. He's practicing what he preaches.
[You] can easily donate funds by using [your] credit card and calling one of these toll-free numbers: (800) 367-5437 for Unicef; (800) 693-2687 for Oxfam America.
In the light of this conclusion, I trust that many readers will reach for the phone and donate that $200. Perhaps you should do it before reading further.
You shouldn't take that cruise, redecorate the house or get that pricey new suit. After all, a $1,000 suit could save five children's lives.
But consider for yourself the level of sacrifice that you would demand of Bob, and then think about how much money you would have to give away in order to make a sacrifice that is roughly equal to that. It's almost certainly much, much more than $200. For most middle-class Americans, it could easily be more like $200,000.
And I'm posting the article on MetaFilter, if you'd like to check out the discussion over there.