In his classic article, "Famine, Affluence, and Morality (Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1972), pp. 229-243)," Peter Singer claimed that affluent people in the developed world are morally obligated to transfer large amounts of resources to poor people in the developing world. For present purposes I will not call Singer's argument into question. While people can reasonably disagree about exactly how demanding morality is with respect to duties to the desperate, there is little question in my mind that it is much more demanding than common sense morality or our everyday behavior suggests. Even someone who disagrees with this might still find some interest in seeing what a demanding morality would imply for well-off residents of the rich countries of the world. I proceed in the following way. First, I survey humanitarian aid, development assistance, and intervention to protect human rights as ways of discharging duties to the desperate. I claim that we should be more cautious about such policies than is often thought. I go on to suggest two principles that should guide our actions, based on an appreciation of our roles, relationships, and the social and political context in which we find ourselves.
- Peter Singer
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