Thursday, July 9, 2009

More thoughts on Peter Singer's Book and the Ethics of Charitable Giving

I don't have as much time to write this morning as most mornings, but I can't resist passing along this link to an article by Nicholas Kristof. He begins this way: "It’s the Group of 8 summit in Italy, and world leaders are strolling along when they spot a girl floundering in a pond, crying out and then dipping beneath the surface. There are no cameras around. The leaders could safely rescue the girl, but they would get drenched and risk damaging their $600 shoes. A rescue would also delay the group’s discussion of Very Important Issues."

Kristof says he's convinced that they'd all jump in to save the girl, that most of us would. He says, " The difference is that the G-8 leaders would then hold a televised press conference to spotlight their compassion, perhaps canceling their session on humanitarian aid to do so." Ouch (but probably true).

Those of you who have read or heard Peter Singer will recognize the set up. It's a powerful one. Kristof goes on to discuss Singer, humanitarian giving (both on a personal and a national scale), and informational campaigns.

When Singer spoke on the Diane Rehm show, I found his arguments so convincing that I changed some of my charitable giving to Lutheran World Relief, which delivers most of its help to the developing world. His argument is that charitable dollars go further and do more good in the developing world than they do here in what we used to call the first world.

I love that Kristof is often shining a light on neglected corners of the world. He refuses to let us sit smugly in our first world complicity. Likewise, Peter Singer has often had intriguing, unsettling arguments in his Philosophy. Now, in the high heat of summer, we need men like these to help us shake off our lethargy.

No comments: