The Singer Solution to World Poverty


Perhaps if there was one issue that has always troubled mankind for ages is the issue of poverty. Across all nations, societies, old and the young, poverty seems to have taken the better hand of mankind. It is in this light that Singer comes out with a thought on how to end the world poverty.

In his work, “The Singer solution to the world poverty” he tried to sell his idea of how the world poverty could be eradicated through sacrifice. But the biggest question everyone may be asking is: is Singer’s solution to the world poverty justified? This paper critically analyses his work with an aim of justifying his argument about ending world poverty.

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Singer’s Argument

Singer began his argument by giving an illustration of a Brazilian film where Dora a retired teacher gets an opportunity to make few dollars by delivering a street kid to some address for adoption by wealthy people, only to realize later that the kid will have to be killed for organs transplants.

Dora is troubled and works towards recovering the kid to save her image. According to Singer, Dora could have been judged as immoral if she didn’t save the kids life, so should the Americans who spend most of their income in unnecessary expenses at the expense of needy children. He claims that “average family in the United States spends almost one-third of its income on things that are no more necessary to them than Dora’s new TV was to her” (Singer 60).

Singer argued that there could be some differences in moral judgment between openly letting a child die and not being directly involved by failure to donate. His argument could be justified, but only if the ultimate judge gave his stand. His argument seems to make us believe on one sided judgment.

Maybe God has his own personal reasons as to why some people are poor, in addition he may have a desire for the privileged to live their life the way they deem appropriate. He created all of us in his own image, both rich and poor. Singer needs to understand that all of us cannot be equal. Whether we give or not there will always be poor people.

Singer gives the second illustration of Bob who has to make a choice between his valuable car and saving someone’s life. Singer argued that it is a moral obligation for the financially stable to support the poor by acts of sacrifice. It is claimed that “$200 in donations would help a sickly 2-year-old transform into a healthy 6-year-old —offering safe passage through childhood’s most dangerous years” (Singer 60). Anyone can empathize with this argument. A little sacrifice from someone can be a matter of life and death to another person.

However, Singer continuously failed to paint out clearly what is the primary cause of such poverty. He puts too much focus on justifying why we should help the poor without justifying the cause of the poverty itself. Does the root cause of poverty justify our sacrifice? For instance one word from a politician can mean poverty to millions of people, which, according to Singer, I should be helping. Why should I then come in to correct other people’s mistakes by sacrificing on my life? This shows how his arguments lack in addressing all facts.

Singer’s claims that we have the ability and the potential to help the poor may be true. He even goes an extra mile to suggest how much an average American family can donate: “a household making $100,000 could cut a yearly check for $70,000” (Singer 60). However, he failed to appreciate the fact that many people would rather work for 20 hours a day so that they can earn that money so that they can spend on luxuries.

Additionally the poor should also work equally as hard. When will the poor wake up and started working on their predicaments? When will the government and the leadership wake up to the reality that they have failed on their job to solve this poverty issue. Donations will never solve any problems but active participation by all parties will.

It was rather ironical when Singer argued that America needs to add more in terms of donations to help the needy just as the other countries do. Why should we continue giving when we can’t even see the benefits of the large sums of donations that have already been given? It may be morally justified to continue giving just as Singer suggested, in the faith that world’s poverty will be eradicated but if what has already been given cannot be accounted for then it beats the purpose.

Singer even went to the extent of suggesting that “Government ought to increase its overseas aid allocations, since that would spread the burden more equitably across all taxpayers” (Singer 99). A first look at the argument might prompt one to think that it is a fair deal.

Critically looking the argument raises more questions. Isn’t heavy taxation one of the major causes of poverty in the poor communities? Why does he want the already established economies go down the road of heavy taxation, in the name of donations to the poor. At some point we may all be poor and no one will be able to help the other. In addition taxation will even affect even those who are already struggling to attain financial stability in life.

Singer came up with a conclusion that “whatever money you’re spending on luxuries and not necessities should be given away” (Singer 60). On the other hand, he claimed that the government should at least increase on the percentage of their gross domestic product going to donations to the poor.

We all know that most of the government income comes from taxation of luxuries. Cutting on luxuries implies cuts on taxes meant for helping the poor, thus his argument does not hold. Additionally, luxuries drive the bigger part of the economy and probably the big question everyone should be asking Singer is what will support our economy?

What if everyone agreed to his idea and cut on luxuries to give to the poor? Wouldn’t that mean massive loss of jobs to the millions of people who work on luxury related industries? We can’t simply jeopardize the lives of millions of hardworking people as we try to save others. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Singer’s ideas may be out of good faith but the implications are far much destructive. The ideas may not be worth the risk as I feel that they are far-fetched and out of touch with the reality.


Singer has great ideas on how to eradicate poverty in the society. He gives examples and illustrations that demonstrate the need to give a helping hand either individually or as a community. He goes to the extent of calculating the amount that he thinks an ideal family should give. His arguments may pass the first test of good faith.

However, a critical analysis has shown that as much as his ideas seem okay, they are only one sided whereas the issue eradicating poverty is a multi-factorial concept. Not one sided approach like his can give any meaningful result; as a matter of fact one sided approach may have disastrous effects.

Work cited

Singer, Peter. “The Singer Solution to World Poverty.” The New York Times Magazine, September 5, 1999.


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