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Peter Singer Argues (Essay Sample)

This sample essay is based on Peter Singer\'s work “Rich and Poor” in which he argues that the “absolutely rich” have a moral obligation to help the “absolutely poor.” This was a critical thinking paper. source..
Peter Singer Argues Name: Institution: Peter Singer Argues Peter Singer argues in his work “Rich and Poor” that the “absolutely rich” have a moral obligation to help the “absolutely poor.” According to Singer, many people in the Third World are suffering or dying out of disease, starvation and other hardships yet those in developed nations are awash with luxury and could assist the poor by giving up some of those luxuries but choose not to. He contends that doing nothing about absolute poverty is tantamount to allowing someone to die. Singer is categorical that there is no difference between killing and individual and allowing them to die when one is in a position to assist (Singer, 1993, p. 332). Singer support his argument by stating that if humans can prevent horrible events from happening without sacrificing their moral integrity, then such actions should not be considered as problems. Predictably, what Singer is trying to put across is that the rich themselves are not in a position to save the proverbial drowning child, but they can give the excess money and resources to those who can. He has aid organizations such as the Red Cross, World Vision, and Oxfam. While some of his arguments appear valid, some are open to debate. For instance, he describes a difference between the ‘practicalities’ and ‘ethics’ of assisting the poor. Singer uses the ethical argument that drives his audience to see the urgency in helping the poor through feeding the hungry, but the practical argument is used to advice on how much should be given. The prescription is that rich people should offer about one percent of their income. The logic is that this proportion is substantial but not adequate to alter the donor’s standard of living. It proceeds by prescribing that those earning around $100,000 should give out three percent and five percent for those earning much more than $100,000. For individuals earning millions of dollars every year, the proportion they should donate increases to one third of their income (Singer, 1993, p. 331). At first pass, this may appear reasonable. However, it does not make any moral or economic sense. In his work “Anarchy, State, and Utopia,” Robert Nozick argued that an unfettered free market formed the basis of a just society. According to him, the only justifiable function of the state was ensuring the efficient operation of free markets by implementing contracts and safeguarding citizens against theft, fraud, and violence. The policy of making citizens pay for a sort of a “night watchman” state, which seems redistributive is, in fact, non-redistributive because such a state would ultimately naturally arise through free bargaining. Nozick illustrates his point using the Wilt chamberlain example that if a person is able to offer goods or services that are highly demanded and other freely agree to pay him for the same goods or services, then that person deserves to be rich (Srinivasan, 2013, p. 1). Upon acquiring the wealth, he does not owe anybody anything because he acquired this wealth through voluntary exchange with the services and goods he produced. Nozick terms any attempt to “redistribute” this wealth, which has been obtained through free market, as “forced labor.” In this context, the word “free” is used to mean any transaction that is not physically coerced. Nozick’s stand represents a fundamental departure from Singer’s idea, which essentially calls for the re-distribution of this wealth. The Nozickian viewpoint is often considered as a moral common sense. However, a careful scrutiny of Nozick’s suppositions raises some questions. The first is whether any exchange between two persons, which is devoid of direct physical coercion by one party against another, is necessarily fair. If one concludes it as fair, this would mean that it is not possible to coerce an individual into action through circumstances and not direct physical compulsion. For instance, if a woman together with her children is facing starvation and the only way to save the situation is for the woman to sell her organs or turn to prostitution. She decides to undertake these actions not out of direct physical compulsion but from the need to feed her family. One would be inclined to ask whether this exchange is still free. The second question is whether all free exchanges are morally permissible. An affirmative response to this question would imply that any free exchange could not be exploitative, and therefore, immoral. It is almost impossible to talk about ethics in contemporary philosophy and fail to mention John Rawls. The concepts of equality and fairness, which he explains using a “veil of ignorance,” are central to Rawls’s theory of justice. The “veil of ignorance” is an important component of the way individuals can construct the society (Srinivasan, 2013, p. 1). Rawls refers to an original position where an individual is attempting to find out a fair arrangement in a society with no predetermined notions and prejudices. Individuals behind this “veil of ignorance” are not aware of the side of a social contract they will be on, and do not know their gender, race, class, or standing in the society. According to Rawls, individuals who do not know the privileges they will be born with are more inclined to ...
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