For the first time in history, eradicating world poverty is within our reach. Yet around the world, a billion people struggle to live each day on less than many of us pay for bottled water. In The Life You Can Save, Peter Singer uses ethical arguments, illuminating examples, and case studies of charitable giving to show that our current response to world poverty is not only insufficient but morally indefensible. The Life You Can Save teaches us to be a part of the solution, helping others as we help ourselves.
Part plea, part manifesto, part handbook, this short and surprisingly compelling book sets out to answer two difficult questions: why people in affluent countries should donate money to fight global poverty and how much each should give. Singer (Animal Liberation) dismantles the justifications people make for not giving and highlights the successes of such efforts as microfinance in Bangladesh, GiveWells charitable giving and the 50% League, where members donate more than half their wealth. Singer alternately cajoles and scolds: he pillories Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, who has given less than his former partner, Bill Gates, and lives far more extravagantly: His toys include a large collection of vintage military aircraft and a 413-foot oceangoing yacht called Octopus that cost him over $200 million and has a permanent crew of sixty. Singer contrasts Allens immoderation with the work of Paul Farmer (a cofounder of the international social justice organization Partners in Health) and the cost of basic health services in Haiti ($3,500 per life saved), or malaria nets ($623–$2,367 per life saved). Singer doesnt ask readers to choose between asceticism and self-indulgence; his solution can be found in the middle, and it is reasonable and rewarding for all. ~ PW
“In The Life You Can Save, Peter Singer challenges each of us to ask: Am I willing to make poverty history? Skillfully weaving together parable, philosophy, and hard statistics, he tackles the most familiar moral, ethical, and ideological obstacles to building a global culture of philanthropy, and sets the bar for how we as citizens might do our part to empower the world’s poor.”
–Raymond C. Offenheiser, president, Oxfam America