Mining rescue budget could have saved 2,857 lives

Peter Singer estimates that the cost of saving a life in the developing world is between $250 and $3,500.

The estimated cost of the Chilean mining rescue was $10–20m.  Or $303–606k per life saved.

Assuming the high-end cost in the developing world and the conservative cost of the mining rescue, the mining rescue budget could have saved 2,857 lives in the developing world—86 times as many as were saved yesterday in Chile.  Using different assumptions, the number of lives saved could be as high as 80,000.

In some respects, deciding to abandon the 33 miners would have seem to be a crass decision.  But likewise, diverting the money that would have been used on the rescue operation to Africa to save 2,857 lives sounds on paper like the right thing to do.

It’s an interesting theoretical debate.  Imagine if the Chilean president had abandoned the miners and announced that he was instead going to save 2,857 people in the developing world.  Imagine.


One Response to “Mining rescue budget could have saved 2,857 lives”

  1. SLATFATF on October 16th, 2010 09:11

    I welcome the views of Peter Singer but many people do not understand the Philosophy he stands for. One should take care when one makes such comparisons between the value of 33 lives vs the lives of thousands that may otherwise be saved.

    The first challenge is that you are only focusing on the value of that particular event. This is erroneous as the argument should surely be based upon the fact that non life saving activities should be curtailed for the benefit of life saving ones.

    In other words, do not make a debate about whether to spend the money saving 33 lives or 3000 lives. Make the debate about whether it is right to buy a million starbucks cappuccinos per day across the globe at 2 dollars each rather than donate the money to saving lives.

    Peter S makes a good case for donating 25% of our income to charity.

    The second consideration to the problem is locality. Peter Stringer says that distance should be no barrier to charitable considerations. If we see a child in trouble and hurt on the street most people would help. Yet there are lots of children hurt in the world that we both know about but do nothing about. Starving kids, abused kids in war zones and sick kids in disaster areas. But because these are a long way away the moral position appears to be different. This is clearly a reflection of the narrow mindedness of the human being.

    So for the miners, they are real and local. So they will get the consideration more so than the thousands in need elsewhere. Such is human nature.

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