Peter Singer’s 'Famine, Affluence, and Morality': Three Libertarian Refutations

Studia Humana, 9:2, 135-141.

7 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2019 Last revised: 24 Aug 2020

Date Written: October 16, 2019


Peter Singer’s famous and influential article is criticised in three main ways that can be considered libertarian, although many non-libertarians could also accept them: 1) the relevant moral principle is more plausibly about upholding an implicit contract rather than globalising a moral intuition that had local evolutionary origins; 2) its principle of the immorality of not stopping bad things is paradoxical, as it overlooks the converse aspect that would be the positive morality of not starting bad things and also thereby conceptually eliminates innocence; and 3) free markets—especially international free trade—have been cogently explained to be the real solution to the global “major evils” of “poverty” and “pollution”, while “overpopulation” does not exist in free-market frameworks; hence charity is a relatively minor alleviant to the problem of insufficiently free markets. There are also various subsidiary arguments throughout.

Keywords: Peter Singer, famine, affluence, morality, libertarianism, criticism, refutation

Suggested Citation

Lester, J. C., Peter Singer’s 'Famine, Affluence, and Morality': Three Libertarian Refutations (October 16, 2019). Studia Humana, 9:2, 135-141., Available at SSRN: or

J. C. Lester (Contact Author)

London School of Economics ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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