One Red Paper Clip

Rich and Poor
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
• 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.