Does Our Excess Consumption Hurt the Poor?

business_ethics_highlights_2In this blog entry (based on a book chapter), Georgetown professors Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski. They point out the parallel between a famous ‘bit’ by comedian Louis CK and an article by the philosopher Peter Singer. Singer argues, roughly, that every bit of “excess” consumption by people in affluent countries (e.g., going to a movie, or buying nicer clothes than we need) is morally equivalent to murder, since it means using up money that could otherwise have been sent to very needy people in other countries. Brennan and Jaworski argue that Signer is misguided, both factually (in terms of what actually works to help the poor) and morally. >>>

LINK: Louis CK’s Really Evil Life

The comedian Louis C.K. jokes,

My life is really evil.

There are people who are starving in the world, and I drive an Infiniti. That’s really evil…. There are people who are like born and then they go, “Oh, I’m hungry,” and then they just die, and that’s all they ever got to do.

And, meanwhile, I’m in my car — boom boom, brrr! — like having a great time….

What do you think?

(Note: the piece linked above is a chapter that got edited out of Brennan and Jaworski’s forthcoming book, Markets without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests)

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One comment

  1. I prefer to think about morality and ethics in terms of the integrity of a person’s commitment to Life. If what you are doing brings you true joy and well being so that you are learning more about yourself and fulfilling your contribution to the world, then your choices are moral. If that is not true and your actions help you avoid finding your own bliss and they limit or blunt your contributions to the world , then they need to change. I love Pete Seeger, but I believe that was what what he was searching for was the integrity of life. For him it was a simple life, but part of learning and living is discovering that stuff is not enough. For me a harder question has todo with the role of the community/government/society in preventing the inflection of pain and the destruction of life as others learn their lessons.

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