Reflections are only that, reflections, nothing more nothing less. Often these reflections are related to books I read, but occasionally also other things. These are often written very late, very fast,  using notes from my mobile phone, so the grammar and spelling is horrible.

The life you can save by Peter Singer

The life you can save by Peter Singer is interesting because it is so boring and feels like it was written 20 years ago.

This is a person that has helped move the animal rights agenda into mainstream. He did that using ethical arguments and demonstrating that we are not acting in a coherent or ethical way in relation to (other) animals. So he has been a thought leader that challenges systems even though it looks impossible.

When it comes to how we should look at the poor people of our own species he adopt a much more narrow perspective and by trying to be “pragmatic” he ends up writing a book that probably is meant to get him and others invited to rich people that want to provide philanthropic contributions to poverty.

Parts of the book are downright counterproductive. One example is his discussion about our unfair trade and agricultural system. These areas he rightfully describe as much more influential than aid, but then goes on saying that it is not likely that these system will change so we should focus on increased philanthropic aid. First of all we must do both, and a discussion about the balance would be interesting. Second, with this approach we would still have slavery, women would not be able to vote, etc. These where things that most people saw as given, but people kept on fighting and managed to change the system. A fair trade regime and a more sensible agricultural policy seems a lot easier to achieve than earlier breakthroughs.
Personally I also feel that the whole philanthropic approach feels a bit outdated. It is nice with philanthropy, but the big question today is how we can get business people using their core skills and delivering solutions that helps the poor. Even if not everyone can be Muhammad Yunus all companies should look how they can assess their contribution to poverty reduction (I wrote an article in China Daily about this two weeks ago).

For the next book it would be good if he spend more time with the philosophy. The arguments in this book are very sloppy and there are references to "human nature" and what's "natural" (e.g caring about family and friends) that feels more like a 19th Century conservative politician than a philosopher.

There are obviously also a number of positive things in the book, but anyone interesting in Peter Singer is better off reading his earlier books and for poverty and ethics there are many books that can be read. An end to poverty by Gareth Stedman-Jones and Kicking away the ladder by Ha-Joon Chang are two books that I hope that Peter Singer will read is he will continue engaging in the poverty debate.

If nothing else this can hopefully inspire a new generation of philosopher as we this year will have more than a billion hungry people on the planet for the first time in human history and we need innovation also in the field of philosophy [see earlier blog].