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The Singer Solution to World Poverty Response

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  • Category: Poverty

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In his essay, “The Singer Solution to World Poverty”, the author Peter Singer wrote a few hypothetical examples to prove his moral judgments, in which he tried to persuade the readers to give away all the money one spends on luxuries via the example of Bob, a man who spared the innocent kids life trying to save his valuable Bugatti. However, the example of Bob failed to convince me as a good analogy for other people. First of all, Singer ignored one of the most considerable element in Bob’s scenario that Bob bore the psychological impact of directly seeing the kids killed by a train because he failed to throw a switch, when he suffered the pain of losing his “rare, valuable old car, a Bugatti” which he had “invested most of his savings” and the moral condemnation of sacrificing the innocent kids at the same moment (404). On contrast to Bob’s situation, most people never see the crowd of the poor, suffering from hunger and cold, exposing their gaunt bodies and begging for help. What most people have seen are a few beggars on the street which may be a common scene that people are accustomed to, providing way less psychological impact on people.

Mental shock is always a significant element as a motivation to people. When donating 200 dollars to an overseas aid agency, people can never see the kids they are saving; instead, they can merely see their 200 dollars, earned from hours of arduous work, are given away to strangers. Even if the donation is guaranteed to save the kid, people always tend to believe what they see rather than what they hear. So, we can see that it is more likely for Bob to choose a rather provoking one compellingly since he had to see the kids killed or to see his car crashed, which might both bring him considerable metal shock. Moreover, when people have to make the decision of giving something up to reserve the other, the particular one that stays tends to be more valuable to him or her. When Bob chose to sacrifice the kids, it was obvious that in Bob’s eyes the car contains more value to him, since “he invested most of his savings” in it (404). As far as I’m concerned, I think we should understand his decision and I can see from the description that he reluctantly chose his to save car rather than immediately making the choice. It wasn’t something rash to him. He didn’t want to spare the kids and he wanted to save their lives, but the car, a valuable one, or maybe even invaluable to him since he spends most of his incoming on it, meant a lot more to him.

He might have to count on the car for the comfortable life after retiring from his job. To some extent, it was a selfish behavior, but people tend to think themselves as the most essential ones. Nevertheless, the importance of the car to Bob was far more than 200 dollars to most of the people Singer tried to persuade. They weren’t analogous situations and they don’t have much to do with each other. Because the scene happened to Bob doesn’t happen to Singer, or other readers, they can criticize the made-up character, Bob, on a moral high ground; whereas, I wonder, if the similar scene happened to them—to choose between a valuable thing they may have to rely on for the rest of their lives and some innocent kids’ lives, what would they do? Would they abandon their beloved stuff and do the noble things as they said?

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