Measuring Extreme Poverty, Part I: Why We Need Data

Extreme poverty is one of the most significant factors contributing to disease and death in the developing countries of the world. Needless to say, the causes of extreme poverty are difficult to isolate and even more difficult to address. Gathering accurate and robust data on the character and intensity of poverty is essential if we are to know which specific interventions are needed in any given political or geographic region. Continue reading

Measuring Extreme Poverty, Part I: Data Deprivation

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EXTREME POVERTY IS ONE of the most important factors contributing to disease and death in the developing world. Yet, the causes of poverty are difficult to understand, and even more difficult to combat. As with Effective Altruism, anti-poverty programs and policies must be guided by accurate, specific, and robust data. For many countries, the available data is weak, non-existent, one-dimensional, or sorely outdated. We could say they are subject to  ‘data deprivation.’ And ‘data deprivation’ means that people’s lives are not seen and their voices are not heard.

We believe collecting data is giving voice to the poor.

In a later post, I will take up the issue of how poverty is measured, but for now, I offer this brief, perky video presentation (5 min.) by two affable World Bank economists discussing  “77 Reasons We Need Poverty Data.”

 

Sunday Morning Global Poverty Meditation #1

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Nelson Mandela quote(Suggested Meditation Time: 20 minutes)

“If a single 747 crashed, it would be on the nightly news. Scenes of rescuers looking through the wreckage and doctors treating any survivors would fill our living rooms and it would – rightly – be seen as a moral emergency. Yet the much larger moral emergency of forty 747s worth of children dying each day from easily preventable diseases is left unreported – even though tomorrow’s deaths are not predetermined, even though it is part of a much more interesting and challenging story about who is responsible and how they should be brought to account. It is old news. It is an everyday emergency.” – Toby Ord, from “Global Poverty and the demands of morality” in God, The Good, and Utilitarianism: Perspectives on Peter Singer, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

  1. The number of people living on less than $1.25 per day has dramatically decreased in the last three decades, from half of the citizens in the developing world in 1981 to 21% in 2010. But, there are still more than 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty. While one might argue that $1.25 goes much further in developing countries than it does in the USA, this figure represents the amount of buying power one would have if one were living in USA. Imagine living in the USA on about $1.25 per day, $9 a week!
  2. The top five poorest countries in the world are India (with 33% of the world’s poor), China (13%), Nigeria (7%), Bangladesh (6%), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (5%).
  3. Adding another five countries — Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya — would include almost 80% of the world’s extreme poor.
  4. About 22,000 children die each day due to conditions of poverty. This is equivalent to 40 Boeing 747s crashing each day without media coverage.
  5. Approximately 1.2 billion people — nearly as many as the entire population of India — still live without access to electricity.

(Source: 45 Surprising Facts About Extreme Poverty Around the World You May Not Have Realized)

 

Toby Ord: A No-Brainer

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Toby Ord and his wife Bernadette Young

Toby Ord and his wife Bernadette Young

“If I can have a benefit for myself or give the same size benefit to 1000 other people — I think that is a no-brainer.”

“Some people ask me, in response to all of this, has it been difficult? It was about four years ago that I made this pledge to give all of my income above £20,000 per annum (about $27,000 USD). And my answer is, no. I was a grad student when I decided to do this. I had less than that amount of money. I have more now than I ever had before. And so, actually, I’m living pretty well.”

“The main difference is that there are some issues that I previously thought I was running away from, and now I feel like I’m tackling them head-on and making the most of my life and really trying to help people directly and effectively.” Continue reading

Peter Singer & Shih Chaohwei

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Shih Chaowei

Shih Chaowei

LAST YEAR IN TAIWAN Peter Singer had an extended dialogue with the Buddhist scholar, feminist and animal advocate Shih Chaohwei.  They exchanged views on many ethical issues, finding both similarities and differences between Chaohwei’s Buddhist approach and Singer’s utilitarian one.  The dialogue was recorded, and their plan is that it will eventually become a book, but they will first continue the dialogue over email before finalizing the text.

On the 4th of May 2007, Shih Chaohwei was awarded the 48th Chinese Literature and Arts Medal for her outstanding contributions to cultural debates. She was also awarded the International Outstanding Women in Buddhism Medal on March 6th, 2009 and The Person of the Year Prize for social movements on December 28th, 2012. Together with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, she has been appointed as the spiritual mentor of INEB, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, founded by the renowned Thai Buddhist reformer, Sulak Sivaraksa. Continue reading

What Is a Conscientious Moral Agent?

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cover of The Elements of moral philosophyIN HIS LIVELY introduction to moral theory, James Rachels concludes Chapter One by answering the question: What is a conscientious moral agent?

A conscientious moral agent is one “who is concerned impartially with the interests of everyone affected by what he or she does; who carefully sifts facts and examines their implications; who accepts principles of conduct only after scrutinizing them to make sure they are sound; who is willing to “listen to reason” even when it means that prior convictions may have to be revised; and who, finally, is willing to act on the results of this deliberation.”

Am I someone who is concerned impartially with the interests of everyone affected by what I do?

As I think about this, and as I contemplate the great variety of moral theories that abound throughout the world and throughout time, it seems to me that it is far more important to become a conscientious moral agent than it is to adhere to any specific moral theory. Continue reading

Virtue Ethics and Consequentialism: A Developmental View

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image of children wearing tee shirts with virtue ethics words: honesy, trust, integrity, etc.As I see it, virtue ethics [1] is a particularly good ethical framework for the education of children and young people, for its aim is to guide and assess what kind of persons we ought to be. For example, we might want to guide our children to be, among other things, kind, generous, courageous, and honest. But as children mature and their rational capabilities develop, they should be introduced to the much more demanding world of consequentialism [2], an ethical framework that guides and assesses what we ought to do. Most importantly, young people should be immersed in the question, “How can I do the most good?”. Continue reading

Featured Video: Peter Singer & Lawrence Krauss

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Peter Singer & Lawrence Krauss

Peter Singer & Lawrence Krauss

IN THE FAR-REACHING DIALOGUE featured in this post, world renowned moral philosopher Peter Singer and physicist Lawrence Krauss meet for an intimate evening of conversation at the Origins Project Dialogue. The Origins Project at ASU (Arizona State University) is a transdisciplinary initiative exploring fundamental questions facing humankind today. This candid and unscripted conversation on ethics for the 21st century covers topics ranging from animal liberation to dying with dignity, food, global poverty and effective altruism. Of the many Peter Singer presentations available on YouTube, this is one of the best. It is both penetrating and humorous. Highly Recommended. Continue reading

What Kinds of Things Do Effective Altruists Do?

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art imageIn his book The Most Good You Can Do, Peter Singer says, “Effective altruists do things like the following: living modestly and donating a large part of their income—often much more than the traditional tenth, or tithe—to the most effective charities; researching and discussing with others which charities are the most effective or drawing on research done by other independent evaluators; choosing a career in which they can earn most, not in order to be able to live affluently but so that they can do more good; talking to others, in person or online, about giving, so that the idea of effective altruism will spread; giving part of their body—blood, bone marrow, or even a kidney—to a stranger (p.4).”

It seems to me that the above list might be somewhat off-putting to many people. Looking at the first activity, donating a large part of one’s income, I immediately feel that Continue reading