Rich and Poor by Peter Singer
Both absolute poverty and absolute affluence exist. • Absolute poverty. • Defined as malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, squalid housing, high infant mortality, low life expectancy. • Characterizes 23% of world’s population. • Absolute affluence. • Ability to meet all basic needs + afford luxuries. • Characterizes the majority (but not all) in advanced industrial countries.
There is sufficient production of economic goods in the world that no one has to live in absolute poverty. • This is certainly the case for food. • Sufficient food is produced today to provide every person on earth with a nutritionally adequate diet – and • This is without putting more land into agricultural production or bringing the “green revolution” everywhere.
What does Rawls’ theory say? • Apply the second principle. • The current inequality does not leave enough for everyone. • No one could place themselves behind the veil of ignorance and assent to this pattern of distribution. • The current world-wide pattern of poverty and wealth is not just, and therefore is not ethically acceptable.
What does Singer say? • Every serious ethicist would say we should prevent what is bad when we can do so without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance. • In the case of world poverty, this means that helping is morally required – not merely something it is nice to do for the people who feel like it.