If you have never read Peter Singer’s indispensable and highly influential article, “Famine, Affluence and Morality (1972),” I recommend taking the time to do so. And if you have read it, but only the original version, you may want to read the ‘Revised Edition,’ particularly the ‘Postscript.’ You will find it illuminating. This article is still essential reading, and, like a good movie, play, or work of art, worth revisiting again and again. You can find the Revised Edition with Postscript online HERE.
Until recently, I thought donations to charities should be made anonymously, that I should hide my giving, not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. I thought that I should not announce or ‘advertise’ my giving, that this was ego-based, self-serving, less than altruistic. Even donation plaques in auditoriums bothered me: “This seat was donated by William A. & Susan R. Jones.” But I’ve changed my view on this. Continue reading
“Those of us who care at all may send a donation to one of the agencies trying to help: ten dollars, or fifty dollars, or perhaps even a hundred dollars. Any more would be a rare act of generosity by the standards of our society. Yet those of us fortunate enough to live in Western Europe, North America, Australia, or Japan regularly spend as much or more on holidays, new clothes, or presents for our children. If we cared about the lives and welfare of strangers in Africa as we do about our own welfare and that of our children, would we spend money on these nonessential items for ourselves instead of using it to save lives? Of course, we have lots of excuses for not sending money to Africa: we say that our contribution could only be a drop in the ocean, or that the agencies waste the money they receive, or that food handouts are no good—
My contribution cannot end a famine, but it can save the lives of several people who might otherwise starve.
what is needed is development, or a social revolution, or population control. In our more honest moments, though, we recognize that these are excuses. Continue reading