In Peter Singer’s essay What Should a Billionaire Give — and What Should You? it is argued that eliminating global poverty is a moral responsibility shared by everyone in the developed world. Singer sets forth guidelines for what he believes to be reasonable charitable donations from individuals based on their earnings, and leading up to this argument he reflects on the tremendous wealth of Bill Gates:

“Gates may have given away nearly $30 billion, but that still leaves him sitting at the top of the Forbes list of the richest Americans, with $53 billion. His 66,000-square-foot high-tech lakeside estate near Seattle is reportedly worth more than $100 million. Property taxes are about $1 million. Among his possessions is the Leicester Codex, the only handwritten book by Leonardo da Vinci still in private hands, for which he paid $30.8 million in 1994. Has Bill Gates done enough? More pointedly, you might ask: if he really believes that all lives have equal value, what is he doing living in such an expensive house and owning a Leonardo Codex? Are there no more lives that could be saved by living more modestly and adding the money thus saved to the amount he has already given?”

The suggestion is that Bill Gates could give more. Do you believe that Gates, or anyone, has the responsibility to spend their money on charitable causes as Singer argues? Or do you believe it is morally justifiable to spend your money however you wish?


Open chat