Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Peter Singer – Professor of Ethics

Peter Singer, an Australian, and the professor of ethics at Princeton looks at the ethics of philanthropy in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Peter Singer, Professor of Ethics at Princeton

He asks how our beliefs about the value of human life square with our actions in a world in which more than a billion people live at a level of affluence never before known, while roughly a billion others struggle to survive on the purchasing-power equivalent of less than $US1 a day.
He applauds the actions of the world’s richest people, Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet in pledging more than $US67 billion directed towards the world’s poorest.

Singer then analyses the incomes of the richest Americans – the top 0.01%, the top 0.05%, the top 1% and the top 10%.

He figures that the 14,400 people in the top 0.01% who earn an average of $US12.8 million could give a quarter of their income without hurting. The next categories are asked to give 20%, 15% and 10%. On his figures, this philanthropy would yield $US404 billion.

Extending this scheme worldwide would provide $US808 billion annually for development aid. That's more than six times what the task force chaired by Jeremy Sachs estimated would be required for 2006 in order to be on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Of course, it is very easy to do this kind of armchair calculation; the difficulty lies in persuading the mega-rich to share their wealth. The fine leadership of Gates and Buffet has defined the first decade of the 21st century as a new "golden age of philanthropy", but it won't appeal to most rich people.

The effort to bring our actions in line with our values is an ongoing personal challenge for most of us. If you value human life and believe that equality is an important principle, you can act to support these principles by helping the School of St Jude to Fight Poverty through Education.

The school is one of those energetic, well-run and successful projects that are making a difference to hundreds of lives. Your donation, large or small, will be well-used.

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