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Famine, Affluence, and Morality" (1972) by Peter Singer introduces its readers to numerous social issues that Singer states have been vastly ignored. The issues deal with the lack of progress in the betterment of society and although the article was originally written more than four decades ago, the situation around the globe remains unchanged. Singer's goal in this article is to present a side not widely taken. To him, the social problems infesting the lives of individuals seem to be quite obvious, yet his discontent with people's attitudes is quite apparent in this article. His primary argument in the article however, is that in order to solve the issues that he sees as being obviously manageable is to give to those who need it most. Throughout the article he points out to these exact societal problems and the financial turmoil that various communities around the world were facing at the time of original publication. His view on the potential of humanity can be sensed.
Despite Singer's hope that humanity would come to their senses, some of the issues that he addresses throughout the article can be a bit idealistic. To begin with Singer wants individuals who are more affluent to provide relief to those that are not as fortunate (Singer, 1972). However, the power of giving is one that needs to come from within. Actual empathy for others and sympathy toward their situation are internal emotions that need to be experienced genuinely by the people who will essentially be doing the giving. This naive perspective defines charity in a way that promotes superficiality, and not genuine concern. Singer would in fact counteract the previously stated phrases by emphasizing the power of giving and the influence of charity. He believed that if enough people are willing to sacrifice a bit of what is rightfully theirs, they will as a result help to feed, house, and cloth millions of impoverished individuals (Singer, 1972). He viewed charity as something that is not being emphasized enough for its true value. Singer thought that charity should be viewed as a duty and not a voluntary notion.
Unlike Singer's opinion on the matter, giving people everything to solve the problems that are occurring at that very moment will only be a bandage to a problem that requires stiches. The financial and the economic problems that existed at the time and still exist today will not be remedied if people start giving away everything that they have (BBC, 2013). It is a limited-term solution to a societal problem that will only keep increasing. Providing resources directly to the affected population is not a solution to the problem of famine. Singer would reply to the statements aforementioned by stating that providing the aid or the relief now would in fact allow these individuals to have one less thing to worry about, in order for them to be able to progress with their families. Although in his article he refers to this direct relief as being the solution to famine, it is the long-term goal that he hopes people will end up focusing on the most, such as population control (Singer, 1972). He states that providing the food will alleviate starvation momentarily, but population control is what is necessary in order to have the limited resources last longer and serve more people.
In order for individuals to be motivated to give what they consider their hard-earned money away, an exact amount needs to be established. Singer addresses that giving away what people can, will indeed go a long way, however the exact amount is vaguely addressed by him. How much is enough? The distribution of wealth is dependent on how many people are actually distributing their wealth and how much each person is willing to give. If the answer to famine and homelessness is simply feeding and providing shelter, then enough has to be given away to sustain those idealistic living conditions. But if too much is given away, then that in itself is creating a recipe for economic disaster (BBC, 2013). Singer would reply to these statements by stating that enough should be given away to balance out the economic status of countries that have smaller GNPs, while reinforcing the idea that there are nations that can actually afford to participate in these acts of charity (Singer, 1972).
Singer introduces the idea of marginal utility. He defines this notion as being the act of giving away too much so as to…[continue]
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