Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Saving Lives Does Not Require Great Sacrifices

In an inspiring article, Peter Singer describes the psychology behind giving money to help children living in poverty. His argument is that nobody would stand by and watch a helpless child drown in a pool. At the same time, many people do nothing as children around the world are dying from diseases such as diarrhea, something that is easily preventable. Psychologists label this the bystander effect: a person is more likely to help when they are the only one around able to do so, and people are less likely to help when they see others around them not helping. According to Singer, people's unwillingness to help these children is mostly due to the fact that they believe they won't really have an impact, when this is in fact untrue.

Singer suggests levels of donation that Americans could give without having to make any drastic sacrifices: "They begin at 1% of income for 90% of American taxpayers, rising to 5% for those earning above $105,000 a year, and gradually increasing until they peak at 33.3% for those earning more than $10 million a year. That would raise more than $500 billion a year—more than double a U.N. estimate of what it would take to cut world poverty in half."

Source: Newsweek