A final post about Singer’s book.
This book is really meant to get you to give, so responding with deep philosophical angst is sort of missing the point. So let me say right off the bat–yes, I should give much more. Singer is right.
But now for the angst. Let’s have a little thought experiment. For the next hundred years we do everything right, so that affluence increases for all. There’s a high standard of living and a social safety net that protects the old and incapacitated. This is the case everywhere on earth. Poverty is a thing of the past. The whole human race is just as fortunate as the affluent are today.
And then it is revealed. Space probes discover a very distant planet. While earth has become all-affluent, the other planet is all-poor. (Inspiration for this scenario: the creepy but excellent novel Under the Skin, by Michel Faber.) it turns out there’s no less misery in the universe than before, but instead all the affluence is concentrated on earth, and all the misery on The Miserable Planet.
Let’s not be distracted by the species on that planet. They’re human beings, and they’re good and bad just like us. Their problems are due to many of the factors that cause problems in the poorest countries today. The population of the planet is about the same as ours.
Question: Must we send off rocket-loads full of aid to The Miserable Planet? Are we obliged to give up (say) half our affluence in order to lift them out of poverty?
Two questions here, best taken in order. (1) Must we give up our affluence to aid The Miserable Planet? (2) If the answer is No, does that tell us anthing at all about our obligations in the real world, where both affluence and misery coexist on the same planet?