The Life You Can Save – Peter Singer

Albert: I appreciated the mix of philosophy, psychology, and real-world examples in this book. The guidelines at the end for how much Singer believes you should donate were helpful from a practical perspective (long story short, 5% of your income). However, I wonder whether writing a book was overkill for his message. I feel like most of the people who read this book are those that are already going to be in agreement with Singer — that there’s a moral necessity to give aid, especially to the world’s poor. Having said that, I am surprised that there isn’t more of a public commitment to alleviating extreme poverty (we’re always talking about politics and social issues in the news!). Perhaps this book was one attempt to rectify that and I have to admit that it kind of worked for me. Rating: B+

Kevin: Overall, this book makes a solid attempt at getting readers to give more to charity. The gist, as I take it and as one can imagine, is that we (people who are living comfortably) are not giving enough, that’s wrong, and if we all just gave a little more, then plenty of people around the world would be much better off.

I can’t help but remember the first time I heard about TOMS shoes. The company would donate a pair of shoes for every purchased pair, but apparently this perpetuates stereotypes, hurts local markets, and possibly has other unintended consequences. The book does address similar concerns, such as the need for population control, among other common objections to giving. But it’s hard getting entirely convinced, because there are no magic words. Perhaps after a point, we just have to have faith in our moral intuitions and hope nothing really “bad” happens. Rating: B+

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