How much does it cost to save a life? | Peter Singer

How much does it cost to save a life? | Peter Singer

I was moved to write this book because I was
aware that there are so many people in extreme poverty in developing countries who we can
help. There are effective organizations. We can assist them and save their lives or
restore their sight if they’re blind or prevent them going blind. Many other things that we can do. That a lot of people don’t realize how cheap
it is basically to save a life of somebody in a developing country. Whereas here in the United States or other
affluent nations we would spend hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars to
save the lives of people who are very ill through intensive care units we save their
lives. But for the amount that we’re spending to
save one life here in the United States we could maybe save many hundreds or a thousand
lives in developing countries. It seems to me wrong that we are not doing
something about that when we have this opportunity to help people at relatively little expense. We’re not doing that and instead we’re
buying ourselves things that we don’t really need. Things that might range from expensive cars
to simply buying bottled water when we can drink the water out of the tap. All the time we’re spending things that
either by themselves or added together could save somebody’s life or give somebody a
much better quality of life. There is something about human nature that
makes it harder for us to give to strangers, especially distant strangers who we don’t
really see. And that’s because we evolved from our primate
ancestors already living in social groups as chimpanzees, for example, live today in
small social groups where they know each other. Every chimpanzee in the group recognizes every
other chimpanzee in the group and knows that they’re part of their group. So they will help each other in need. And as we emerged we also lived in small groups. Gradually they got bigger. A lot of anthropologists think that the typical
human society was about 150 individuals. But still if you’re living with 150 individuals
all your life you will get to know them all. And so you develop an ethic of helping other
people in your group and you develop a kind of emotional response to seeing their needs
and you would go and try to help them and meet their needs. But now that we’re living in societies of
tens or hundreds of millions of people and a world of billions of people we don’t have
that personal connection. So we can’t rely on that immediate emotional
response to someone else’s need and to someone who we know. So we have to really use our head as well
as our heart. I think our emotions are still there. We still have a sense that it’s bad that
people should suffer. It’s bad that children should die. But we have to do that operation in our head
of saying yes, and even though I can’t see these people I know that they are dying. I can read the statistics, the report on this. I know that there are organizations that will
take my donation and reduce the number of children dying. So that’s what I want to do. But that’s a step that isn’t based on
a kind of evolved intuitive response. It’s a step that really has to come out
of our rational reflection on who we are, where we are and where the other people in
the world are. Well there are still many challenges in relating
to helping people in poverty. One of them is simply the failure to put sufficient
resources really targeted to help people who are very poor. Now I know a lot of Americans will say hey,
wait a minute. Isn’t our government the biggest donor of
aid in the world and aren’t I already doing that through my taxes? A lot of people don’t realize that even
though in dollar terms the United States is the biggest donor. It’s also a very big economy and as a percentage
of the economy size, of the gross national income, the United States is actually giving
very little. It’s giving about 21 cents in every hundred
dollars that the nation earns. So less than a quarter, a couple of dimes
for every hundred dollars that we earn. And that then doesn’t look so generous. Plus, a lot of this aid is not targeted to
helping the world’s poorest people. It’s used for strategic purposes. So at the moment the biggest recipient of
U.S. aid is Afghanistan because we have troops there. We’re fighting a war there and we want to
sort of get support and goodwill by donating aid. Prior to that it was Iraq when we were fighting
the war in Iraq. And Iraq certainly was never one of the poorest
countries. It always had a lot of oil revenue. There are many other poor countries in Sub-Saharan
Africa, for example, who get very little aid from us because they’re not strategically
that significant. This is a barrier really to try to get more
resources going where it’s needed most. And that’s why in the book I ask people
to check online at websites like The Life You Can Save for the most effective organizations
that really have thought about these issues, that know what to do, that are directly helping
the poor. In some cases they’re advocates for the
poor like one of the organizations recommended by The Life You Can Save is Oxfam because
Oxfam is an international advocate for the poor trying to promote better trade deals
for the poor, for instance, to help them trade their way out of poverty. Trying to stop bribery and corruption by getting
companies that are extracting oil or minerals from poorer countries to publish how much
they’re paying to the governments of those countries so that the people know what the
governments are getting and can try to hold them accountable for the money they’re receiving. So there are lots of ways both directly and
through political advocacy to try to really continue to reduce extreme poverty.


  1. PP-chan the innocent anime girl says:

    You need this : ???

  2. Gurudra - Emotional Health & Peace says:

    The greatest problem that modern man is facing is that the mind is being trained too much and the heart is completely neglected

  3. Dennis Rydgren says:

    Most people can save 5-6 lives each year. But most prefer buying a new x-box

  4. Danny Richie says:

    Well step one, you say we need to talk.

  5. Frank Lange TV says:

    Great thoughts. If we would overcome the limits of our small circle of „150 people“ and think in a global way we could save millions of lives easily. Thanks for this great input, you made my day!

  6. feel toofree says:

    Reply before watching the video: as much as the hospital can milk out of you.
    After watching: hmmm ?

  7. rod axel says:

    Hasn't OXFAM had issue in thr past about corruption?

  8. David Boson says:

    this event of dramatic climate change is caused by over abundance of humans

  9. Paul Kelly says:

    I think I saved someone's life for 0.80 AUD once…

  10. DarknezzMadnezz says:

    pennies if corporations weren't greedy and wanting ALL the money and not pissed off because people are finding natural ways to heal themselves without going bankrupt and homeless.

    what is more annoying at this point is that Big Think seems to be trying very hard to be as bullshit filled as PragerU.

  11. Aro Own says:

    Where did I go wrong?
    I lost a friend
    Somewhere along in the bitterness
    And I would have stayed up with you all night
    Had I known how much does it cost to save a life


    Hey I'm Subscribed to your channel!!!! Please return the favor ?

  13. Cyberspine says:

    Isn't it a right-wing talking point that we should help people in their countries of origin, instead of letting them immigrate? Shouldn't then both the left and the right agree that more foreign aid should be given?

  14. GODLESS101 says:

    No one gives a shit about anyone other then themselves and that's not going to change anytime soon. This is the real world. Not a video game. You don't get bonus points for being a hero. We're all just trying to survive as best we can and if the tables were turned those same people who are now dying in poverty would horde resources for themselves and let the rest of the world die an ignoble death. Sorry. That's just the way it is. No sense pretending otherwise.

  15. Frankie Cal says:

    Ahh yes!!!…..let's get advice from a guy who supports Abortion,Infanticide,Necrophila and Bestiality. ????

  16. cybersekkin says:

    a simple google for Oxfam Fraud shows it is not necessarily one to trust. If you are going to donate do your research, Doctors without Borders looks like a good one, but many are just revenue streams for their rich board members.

  17. SoloKey Gaming says:

    hey lets save lives that are cheap to save! Not in America Though it cost too much! Fuck this Guy

  18. chris bruni says:

    World population control….just saying ….I’d rather spend my hard earned money on me or helping people around me not another country that most likely hates us.

  19. John Smith says:

    I think the only reasonable kind of help we must provide to Africa is free condoms.

  20. kd1s says:

    In my case I apply a system where I occasionally give to an org that helps gay kids, or an example recently I was at a fast food place. Young man asked if I'd buy him some food. So I told him order what he wanted and paid for it. He was rail thin and it was clear food was an issue and that's here in the United States.

  21. The Building Sheriff says:

    The reason most people don't give to charities is because these are huge organisations in expensive buildings with highly-paid CEOs. It's nothing to do with the fact that we don't know these people. We care, but we don't care for the charities.

  22. Petar Stamenkovic says:

    You can't force people to act morally, not be corrupt or participate in a system where truth is shunned. The best you can do for them is be the light they can see and aspire to be.

    The only way for poor countries to get rich is to adopt morals and values that have proven themselves to work everywhere else and abandon those things that are making them poor and miserable.

    Saying that offends people. Aren't all cultures equal? Only a willfully blind person would think that.

  23. Richard Volke says:

    Amazing video

  24. Yoso says:

    Interesting how some place “life” as preferable to “death.” However, if one listens to practically any near death experiencer, they’d find a passion for being permitted to move on to the next realm.

  25. Shamut on EV’s says:

    It’s not about emotions, it’s about economics. Completely missing the point. Is Big Think under new management?

  26. ro pro says:

    The last thing the planet needs is more people.

  27. Mello.B33 says:

    Hilarious. The guy is delusional and he has no idea what he is talking about.

  28. Michael Brown says:

    There is no greater advocate for the poor than an employer.

  29. Thijs van Gisbergen says:

    1:00 you know what seems wrong to me? That there are so many people in the world in the first place. Everything points at overpopulation and yet nothing is done about it.

  30. Brother Delphi says:

    from the bloke who inspired "Post Birth Abortion" in his book "Practical Ethics"

  31. Allen Hernandez says:

    Hey what a coincidence. I’m doing a persuasive speech over disease prevention and this video pops up

  32. Eli Nope says:

    Saving more lives in Africa is part of the damned problem. Look at the 1970's and 80's we fed the starving children, they grew up and had more children to starve. Look at the birth rate in Africa and the birth rate in the US. US citizens have already given up so much to help strangers, and those strangers used that help to create larger problems. Let's consider how to prevent more lives from being born in these third world countries, every baby not born is a baby that can't starve and doesn't need to be saved.

  33. Hilary White says:

    Peter Singer; proponent of Nazi ideology. Nice.

  34. Rand Huso says:

    Doesn't anybody learn from history? We should not be helping anyone. Every region must equilibrate to the carrying capacity of their homeland. Even Rev. Thomas Malthus addressed this in his little treatise. Every breeding group must develop their own technology – otherwise you wind up with savages wielding nuclear weapons, or populations that are all starving because there's more of them than can be supported ecologically – and just moving them to other places in the world doesn't actually solve the continuing problem.

  35. Amante says:

    More than it costs to end one, for some reason…

  36. steve betance says:

    Jesus paid for you with His blood

  37. M. M says:

    It would be interesting to weight donations vs distrusting actions (such as wars, exploitation, etc) of each country. Because if you are responsible for doing most of the damage worldwide, donations are just an instrument of hipocrasy.

  38. Gas Mask says:

    as well as corruption and scams, i for one distrust almost everyone

  39. E V says:

    If y’all are disabled in any way this guy would rather have you dead. He’s trash and I hope we all eat meat

  40. apgovea1 g says:

    They are the ones with the opportunities that are being squandered instead of being patriots and dragging their country out of the stone age into the future they choose to live in the past.

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