International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 27, Issue 2, Fall 2013

Gregory Robson
Pages 251-263

What We Owe the Global Poor
In Defense of a Moderate Principle of Sacrifice

Peter Singer’s 1971 essay “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” sparked a surge in interest among philosophers in the obligations of the global rich beneficently to assist the global poor. Richard Miller argues that Singer’s account is too demanding and proposes his Principle of Sympathy as an alternative to it. I first argue against Miller’s view and, in particular, his insistence that the value of pursuing worthwhile goals that are close to one’s heart significantly weakens one’s obligation to assist the least well-off. Secondly, I critique Singer’s account and argue for a substantially revised version thereof. The Moderate Principle of Sacrifice (MPS) that I defend includes four revisions to Singer’s account. These revisions allow it adequately to account for nonmoral value; the suffering of donor as well as recipient; serious need rather than just poverty; and the need for a long-term approach to global poverty relief.