Pete Singer's Utilitarian Approach To World Poverty

2858 words - 11 pages

Between now and tomorrow morning, UNICEF estimates that 22,000 children will die each day due to poverty. The day after tomorrow, 22,000 more children will die, as well as the next day and each subsequent day henceforth throughout 2013. Two million children die from preventable diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea because they cannot afford or do not have access to proper healthcare services. 19 million children around the world remain unvaccinated. The number of human beings dying or suffering from hunger, malnourishment, lack of access to clean water, and preventable disease is staggering.
Approximately three billion people, nearly half of the world’s population, live on less than $2.50 a day. Over one billion people live in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 a day). 80 percent of the world lives on less than $10 a day. 1.6 billion people live without electricity, nearly one-quarter of the world population. In 2011, it was estimated that 165 million children under the age of five had a reduced rate of growth and development due to chronic malnutrition. 870 million worldwide do not have enough food to eat. More than one billion people lack access to clean drinking water and approximately 400 million of these individuals are children. The staggering poverty in certain corners of the world raises the question of whether or not affluent people in rich nations have a moral obligation to aid those in poor nations. The cost to rectify global poverty by offering basic education, clean water, reproductive health for women, and basic health and nutrition is estimated to be around $40 billion. Do we have a moral obligation to help the poor? Throughout this paper, I will present Peter Singer’s utilitarian approach to global poverty and argue why I agree with his position, but disagree with the methods he suggests will end world poverty.
Peter Singer approaches the question about our moral obligation to those in need by using utilitarian philosophy. Utilitarianism is the ethical doctrine that morality is based on utility, and the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the happiness and reduces suffering for the greatest number of people. Singer forms the foundations of his argument with two assumptions. The first assumption is that global poverty and suffering and dying due to the lack of available resources (food, clean water, shelter, medical services) is bad. The second assumption is that if we have the power to prevent something horrible from happening, such as the suffering of another human being, without sacrificing something of significant moral importance, then we have a moral obligation to prevent the suffering. Singer defines significant moral importance as the amount of aid one can give without harming oneself and one’s dependents or committing an immoral action comparable to the one being prevented. He uses these two assumptions as the framework for the argument that we have a moral obligation to eliminate the suffering...

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