Posted by: bridget | 18 December 2006

It’s the Economy, Stupid

Peter Singer argues that the rich should give a hefty portion of their wealth away to those in poor countries. His argument would hold more water if he knew some basic economics. He presumes that the top 1% of income earners (those earning over $276,000/year) can comfortably give away 15% of their pre-tax income. This goes up the scale, to presuming that the top 0.01% can give away 35% of their income. Singer presumes that this wealth would all go to the very poor in third-world countries. The pachyderm invites Mr. Singer, and any who share his sunny world-view, to contemplate a few things (after the jump):

1. Basic Assumptions: The bottom 1/2 of the top 1% of income earners cannot “comfortably” give away 15% of their pre-tax income. That donation to third-world countries, coupled with taxes, would mean that many of them would make lifestyle changes (such as selling their homes – ergo reducing property tax revenue – or not sending their kids to college) that would negatively influence the economy. The pachyderm also gives an elephant snort to the idea that all high earners can “comfortably” live on less. Tell that to all of us law students who are six figures into debt or the small business owners whose income pays other people’s salaries.

Sure, those without expenses or debts might make it work by not buying a new car or eating out as much. Just try to tell the newly unemployed waitress that, sorry, she’ll have to find another way to put food on the table tonight, because her regular customers have forsaken her restaurant in favour of giving money to kids in Africa. (It may shock Mr. Singer to learn that a dollar spent by a wealthy person is recycled six times through the economy.)

2. Morality: The pachyderm cannot help but ask why liberal “philosophers” feel the need to tell the wealthy what they should do with their money. A moral philosopher may tell humans what they should do, but we have long ago discarded as noxious the notion that different people have different moral obligations.

Income (Mr. Singer’s analysis did not include inherited wealth) is earned by one’s intelligence, ingenuity, and labour. Often, such income also comes with costs – the human capital investment of education, diminished life expectancy from working long hours, emotional costs of decreased time with one’s family. Mr. Singer could easily argue that those people who barely earn money could work longer hours or at extra jobs and donate the extra income to poor people, but he chooses to berate the captains of industry, the innovators, the scientists, the doctors, and small business owners.

In short, Mr. Singer fails to acknowledge that money is earned by the sweat of one’s brow and the fruits of one’s mind and, morally, is the property of the person who earned it.

3. Presumption that philanthropy is best used in third-world countries: While many may believe that it is more “moral” to give money to starving kids in Africa than to one’s alma mater, such donations allow universities to accept the most qualified students, regardless of ability to pay. This creates opportunities, decreases the influence of the upper class, and ensures an educated citizenry so that America will continue to be a strong, innovative country that is able to support other countries.

The philantrophy of wealthy Americans supports, inter alia, blood banks, breast cancer research, YMCAs, support for pregnant women, and AIDs awareness. Without the “selfish” investments into the stock market, the US economy would collapse. Venture capital allows for innovation. America needs for its citizens to invest in it – as an economy, as a nation, and as an innovative machine.

Apparently, Mr. Singer missed the story about the goose and the golden egg. The pachyderm suggests that he read it before preaching from his ivory tower.


  1. Yo! Did you know that this is the same Peter Singer who believes that infanticide–the intentional murder of infants up to several years old–is “ethical?” Same dude.

  2. Thanks for the info. He is pro-vegan, pro-bestiality, and pro-infanticide. (Gotta love the “moral” liberals who think that eating cheese made from sheep’s milk is wrong but screwing the animal is acceptable. Even better – killing a child because it has yet to develop the capacity for intellect.) The best part is that Singer’s parents were Nazi refugees, yet he espouses many of the Nazi ideals. Eeeewwww.

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