The Life You Can Save Acting Now to End World Poverty (2009, Random House)

Review :

This book underscores why Peter Singer is the most influential philosopher living today. He takes his utilitarianism very seriously, and the implications of this philosophy, if followed, would radically change our world for the better. In this book, Singer lays out the case for why those of us in affluent nations should be giving to charity to help the poor worldwide. What is actually most surprising to me is the final section in which he lays out the numbers: if the richest 10% of those in the US (and the equally wealthy worldwide) would give at higher levels than they do now but at levels that do not adversely affect their lifestyles, we could effectively end world poverty. Still, the burden should not fall on the richest 10% alone: most of us not in the top 10% of America's wealthiest (those of us earning less than $102,000 annually) could still easily give far more than we do by simply giving up some of our more frivolous spending. This book provides an excellent case for being more generous and eschewing the oft touted American individualism (what I would actually call selfishness: for a literary example of this selfishness-as-a-virtue, see Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged); rather than looking out only for ourselves, we should be looking to help those less fortunate than us, and Singer's arguments here provide the basic moral and practical reasons for such altruism.


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