But, like the reviewer, Dwight Garner, I have to take issue with Singer for the following quoted statement in the Times:
“Philanthropy for the arts or for cultural activities is, in a world like this one, morally dubious,” he declares. The Metropolitan Museum of Art bought a painting by Duccio in 2004 for more than $45 million, an amount, Mr. Singer says, that would pay for cataract operations on 900,000 blind or near-blind people in the developing world.
He continues: “If the museum were on fire, would anyone think it right to save the Duccio from the flames, rather than a child?”
I think Singer creates false choices pitting a child or poverty on the one hand against the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the other. If you take Singer's argument to the extreme, why even have cultural institutions at all? They just waste money and resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
But, I think, places like the Metropolitan Museum expose people, of varying economic means in a city like New York (where I live) to all the different cultures of the world, asking viewers to respect humanity's similarities and differences. What would be the point of living in a world where you could restore vision but the cultural history of our achievements was gone?
Yes, we may be living through a global recession, but there is still room for philanthropy in the arts, in medicine, for the homeless, for the hungry and for the needy. Yes, the $45 million Duccio is a large amount of money, but Singer would probably like to stop supporting the arts completely. Imagine what the world would be like if all the philanthropists, whose name line the walls of the first floor of the Metropolitan and the different gallery spaces, didn't give their money to the Metropolitan or other cultural institutions?
I surely would not want to live in a world without the Metropolitan Museum of Art.