Global Poverty and International Aid

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What is it

Does a hungry child in a far away land have any less of a demand on your good will and aid than a hungry child from your own family or neighborhood?  Does each individual have the duty to give to the worldwide alleviation of poverty up to the point at which further giving would cause his or her own family more harm than it would do good for others?  Or is responsibility for others a mostly local affair: take care of your family, look out for those in your community, and the rest of the world will take care of itself?  John and Ken welcome Peter Singer to discuss Global Poverty and International Aid.

Listening Notes

Do we have a duty to give till it hurts? Ken doubts that we are obligated to give that much. Why do some people matter more to us, say, our children, than perfect strangers? Should some people matter more? Ken introduces Peter Singer, professor at Princeton. Singer begins by giving a few reasons why we should give more to the poor. Ken and John ask Singer to give more details about life style quality across the globe. 

Why should we give to poverty stricken countries? Singer tries to convince Ken to give more. Why should we forgo luxuries in our lives to give money to the poor? Singer replies that we shouldn't be indifferent to suffering just because we can't see it. How much cost to those near and dear should one bear to help strangers on the other side of the world? Why should those distant people matter as much as one's family? Singer replies that, if we abstract from our individual position and universalize the viewpoint, then we'll feel motivated to help. 

Overcrowding is a problem. Wouldn't it get worse if people in the third world lived longer? Singer answers that as people become more educated and more affluent, they reproduce less, so it would not be as much of a problem as you would think. The discussion has been framed in terms of individual responsibilities. Should governments be required to give aid to poor countries? Governments exist for the people that created them, so why should a government do anything to aid people that are not its citizens? A lot of countries are messed up because their own governments messed them up. Singer replies that a lot of those people didn't elect the leaders that messed up their countries. 

  • Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 04:14): Amy Standen interviews an economist about economic equality and mobility. 
  • Sixty Second Philosopher (Seek to 49:38): Ian Shoales gives a brief history of poverty, from hunter-gatherers to Marx to contemporary economics and sociology.
 
 

Peter Singer, Ira W. Decamp Professor of Bioethics  in the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University

 
 
 

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