Critique of “What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You? ” by Peter Singer “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. This extract represents the first article of the declaration of human rights which states that people from all over the world should gain the same benefits of life and struggle hand in hand to reduce imbalances and disparity between them.
However, our world is far from being perfect and inequalities are easily identified within a region, country or even a city. Life is priceless. It is God’s greatest gift and should be returned to the Creator throughout good actions and charity . From this perspective rose philanthropy with the aim of improving human life quality. Many attempts to “fight global poverty” were led during this century by some individuals but the core of the solution lies , according to Peter Singer in his article “What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You? , in the collaboration between all classes of people. Singer dissects through his persuasive essay the different reasons that led to disparity and philanthropy in addition to the exposure of various strategies in order to combat poverty in developing countries. History of developing countries has always been marked with poverty. The origins of scarcity may lie in the field of colonization and the exploitation of people, lands and resources by the European empire-building in the nineteenth century.
As a fact, poor people had less access to health, education and other services. Therefore, the percentage of disease, ignorance and wars increased dramatically thus worsening the situation and dragging poor countries into even deeper problems. Then with the twentieth century rose globalization and the promise held by developed countries to help inferior countries escape poverty by elaborating strong bonds between nations and offering poor countries broader access to important roles on the international scene.
However, the massive external influence by the rich and controlling governments or multinational firms leaves the governments of poor countries and its people powerless, in a dark abyss deprived of all rights of humanities. The hypocrisy of rich towards poor people can be observed throughout Singer’s article when he mentions the outrageous and immoral practices made by corporations which buy “stolen goods” from any legal or illegal government. (Singer 5). This sets a motive for some rebellious groups to lead a revolution against the government in order to take control of the nation’s resources.
Congo -for example- being one of the resources richest countries of the world, has witnessed several coups and clashes over gold, diamonds and other “valuable” matter leaving behind destruction and chaos, thus weakening the economic activity of the nation (Tabb). In brief, the author did a good job exposing the historical and environmental contexts that led to disparity. Singer exposes the reasons that led Bill Gates to become a philanthropist and donate part of his fortune to help people in need. He placed Gates in a category conform to Kant’s theory that states that charity action motives relies on a “sense of duty”.
However, this verdict is paradoxical compared to what Singer said in the opening of the article. In fact, he affirms that Gates, shocked to hear about the lethal disease caused by rotavirus, decided to contribute to The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and support “purchasing millions of doses of vaccines” (Singer 2) to avoid several diseases. This according to Hobbes is defined by “own interest” charity. Thus, the author based his own assumption, on Gate’s motive to donate, simply on a Website slogan “To whom much has been given, much is expected” (Singer 3).
According to my own beliefs, somehow consistent with those of the African-American cab driver mentioned in the article, a self- made billionaire is a person who has struggled day and night to build his fortune and has experienced the difficulties and obstacles of life. Therefore, no one should “tell him what to do with it” ( Singer 4) neither evaluate whether the donation was fair or not comparing to the resources the Billionaire still holds after his contribution . I personally think that Gates’ $30 billion donation is high enough.
Therefore, the author should have focused on obvious examples of philanthropy skepticism rather than criticizing and analyzing the intentions of Gate, who has given a fair share to the world. Carlos Slim, the actual richest man in the world, believes that “poverty is not fought with donations, charity or even public spending”. This “frugal” Billionaire, despite being raised in a country where 50% of the population is living in poverty, has not done enough to help Mexican people and resolve the nation’s complex economics issues.
Returning to Bill Gate, his quote -“All lives — no matter where they are being led — have equal value. ” (Singer 2) - was refuted by Singer by opposing it to the actions of Zell Kravinsky, who has gone beyond the imaginable to help humanity. However, this extreme case is rarely observed among humans, thus we should not expect every philanthropist to behave this way. A scandalous quote by John Bolton could relieve the accusation held by Singer against Bill Gate.
In fact, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, stated that the ‘civilian victims of Israelis airstrikes in Lebanon were not “morally equal” to those who die because of “terrorist attacks” (Fernandez). In other words, for Bolton, innocent life does not equal innocent life. But the controversial thing is that he has been nominated for Nobel Peace Prize 2006. This shows that the problem of inequalities in the perception of human life lies in the heart of the nations. Thus, instead of scrutinizing every sentence Gates said, efforts like those of the Billionaire should be met with acclamation.
The author reaches the purpose of his article in his last two pages. In fact, he suggests a strategy to reduce poverty by inciting rich people to “share the burden of relieving global poverty” (Singer 8) via donating a percentage of their fortune. While this approach can be effective to reduce poverty, I personally think that the solution it engenders is temporary. If rich countries really want to improve the world and help restore equality between all the nations, pressure should be exerted by people on governments.
Therefore, they must incite their political leaders to get rid of the competitiveness and selfishness on the international scene and take crucial measures to ensure stability for underdeveloped nations. Works Cited Fernandez, Yusuf. "The July War Series - Part I. " (2009): n. pag. Web. 2 Nov 2010. <http://www. almanar. com. lb>. Tabb, William. "Resource Wars. " (2007): n. pag. Web. 3 Nov 2010. <http://www. monthlyreview. org/>. Singer, Peter. "What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You?. " (2006): 1-12. Web. 3 Nov 2010. <http://www. nytimes. com>.