Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He first became well known internationally after the publication of Animal Liberation. His other books include: Democracy and Disobedience; Practical Ethics; The Expanding Circle; Marx; Hegel; The Reproduction Revolution (with Deane Wells), Should the Baby Live? (with Helga Kuhse), How Are We to Live?, Rethinking Life and Death; One World; Pushing Time Away; The President of Good and Evil; and, with Jim Mason,The Ethics of What We Eat. Singer holds his appointment at the center jointly with his appointment as Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, attached to the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics.
Question: Will the economic crisis help us reevaluate our views about poverty?
Peter Singer: I think there’s a possibility that the economic downturn will lead us to think again about our values in general including our views about poverty on the one hand and also of course, our views about consumption. So I hope that will happen. I couldn’t really say that I’m highly confident that it will happen because, you know, once the downturn is over and the economy picks up again, you can’t be sure that a bit of that old exquisiteness and competitiveness won’t kick in.
Question: What are the steps to eradicating poverty?
Peter Singer: So the most important is that you make a commitment to share some of your income with the world’s poorest people and I suggest a scale as your income increases as to how much you might share.
That scale is in the book, it’s also on my website, TheLifeYouCanSave.Com. And you can go to TheLifeYouCanSave.Com, and see the scale and then pledge to do that, pledge to give the percentage that’s appropriate to your income and so that’s 2 steps of 7 point plan, making a pledge and then doing it publicly because I think it’s important that people should talk about this, should do it publicly so that the idea spreads and more people can see that other people are giving because then you get this virtual spiral going on, you get more people giving because they can see that others are doing it and so it’s easy for them to give psychologically and so then you get still more giving and then it gets still easier for others to give.
So those are a couple of the steps, I also suggest to people become political active citizens and contact their elected representatives about such things as trade policies that are harmful to the poor in developing nations.
I think a whole lot of things that active citizens should be doing to try to get some sense of urgency about the fact that there are 10 million children dying every year from poverty related causes and that we could prevent that.
Recorded on: March 16, 2009