Singer Essays.doc - Advanced Placement English 12

This essay scored an 8 of 9 on the 2005 AP English Language and Composition exam.
In the article “The Singer Solution to World Poverty”, Peter Singer proposes a plan that
could rejuvenate the story of Robin Hood. Although not exactly stealing from the rich, although
close, his plan redistributes wealth from the rich to the poor. There is a global problem with
poverty and disease, acknowledged by almost everyone in the world. There is no question that
something must be done about this problem. But, there is a limit as to how much we can help
with the resources we have. Taking all of our money being spent on luxury items and donating
them to overseas organizations would certainly curb the spread of poverty and disease, but at a
steep price to our lifestyles. The question of whether or not to agree with Singer must be
answered by a pragmatic cost-benefit analysis along with a philosophical and moral debate.
The pros for Singer’s argument lies greatly in the moral arena. Drawing from philosopher
John Rawls from his book A Theory of Justice, we must consider the “Veil of Ignorance.” To
paraphrase, the Veil of Ignorance states that every person could have been born anywhere and at
any time. This means that the millionaire kid born with a silver spoon in his mouth could have
just as easily been born in poverty in a small African village. There is no more value placed on
the life of a privileged kid, he simply has drawn a better lot in life. Relating to Singer’s proposal,
the Veil of ignorance directly supports this redistribution of wealth. Morally, we have an
obligation to help those less fortunate than ourselves because we could have been in their
position given a different birthplace. We must do what we can to make the world a fairer most
just place, and this proposal does just that. There are many other moral arguments for the
proposal that are commonplace in America, such as giving to charity and helping the less
fortunate, because they are unable to help themselves. These are not the only moral arguments
that value human life.
The most significant pragmatic argument for the plan is that the plan would put America
back into the good graces of the world, leading to better relations. By showing the world that we
are helping other nations and saving lives, we make a very god global showing.
However, the pragmatic pros stop there. First of all, in the real world, we can’t expect
that everybody is going to just immediately decide that this is the “good” thing to do and just
change their lifestyles. People work hard for their money and most of them don’t even like
increased taxes, much less all of their money being taken away. Second of all, the American
economy in no small part is driven by luxury. Businesses such as the entertainment industry, the
sports industry, and even the automobile industry would be shut down. Luxury cars would be
gone, big houses would be a thing of the past, and travel would become a display of simplicity.
Americans have a tendency to be extravagant, just watch “Celebrity Cribs” on MTV to find this
out. With Singer’s plan, extravagancy would be extinct in America, leading to the extinction of
our economy with all the jobs that would be lost. Realistically, this plan would not be able to be
put into practice which is a major con. Not to mention the fact that it would be only American
giving away luxury money plus the fact that its not guaranteed that of all our extra money would
even solve all of the problems of the world. In addition to this, a moral problem is presented in
the question of who gets the American money and in what quantities. The plan simply is not
Also, there would be many moral objections. What a person earns is typically thought to
be his or her own property. Yes, taxes do take away from a person’s property, but not to the
crippling effect that this proposal would. This plan is akin to a global communication with the
Americans working to their abilities and giving to the world’s needs. Communism has been
shown to be immoral and not to work in the past, why would it be right now? If Americans felt
that the process was immoral and that they were being wronged, all incentive to earn luxury
money would be lost. The money that they don’t have can’t be stolen from them. This plan
simply does not work, morally and pragmatically.
I believe that through cost-benefit analysis it is plain to see that the benefits of “helping
the needy” just can’t outweigh the harms of the flaws in the plan. The most notable flaw is the
cost of this plan would be in the downfall of the American economy, as we know it.
The benefit of helping the entire world out of poverty and disease isn’t guaranteed and is
at best, a very long shot. The veil of ignorance may say that the right thing is to try to make
things equal for all people. But in practicality, Singer’s argument has too many cons to be
outweighed by the pros.
This essay scored an 6 of 9 on the 2005 AP English Language and Composition exam.
“Whatever money you’re spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away.”
This is Peter Singer’s philosophy on ending the food and medicine crisis in other countries.
While his idea of helping is wonderful, his plan is slight flawed.
It is a good idea. It would help other people. The hungry would not be hungry anymore.
No more deaths from starvation. Many people would be saved from curable diseases. They
would not have to suffer anymore. The people would have a happier and healthier chance at life.
The world’s feelings toward the United States would also improve greatly.
But, the plan has its cons. Money sent to organizations is often misused, mismanaged, or
pocketed, such as the 9/11 money that was to go to families of the victims. Also, the effects of
such a plan would take a long time for the needy to notice and complaints would surface about
why it is taking so long. People in the United States would also have a hard time giving up their
money. They would feel that they worked hard for their money, and should be able to enjoy it.
Why shouldn’t they? It is, in fact, their money. Another flaw would be defining exactly what a
luxury is. Is luxury owning a car, or owning a Cadillac Escalade compared to a Ford Pinto? Is
eating at a restaurant a luxury? Is prom a luxury? Is going to college a luxury? The word luxury
would be hard to define. Also, this would collapse the United States economy. The people
wouldn’t have the money to consume goods. Without sales, companies go under. With jobs,
people don’t make money. The job loss would be staggering. Unemployment levels would
skyrocket. Eventually, our country would go broke. Overtime, we would be a country in need of
food and medicine.
Peter Singer means well. He wants to help those in need. However, his plan has flaws.
These flaws show that this plan would never work. Maybe one day there will be a plan that
would work and be successful, but this is not the best plan.