View all New York Times newsletters. Suppose that there were more owners of priceless vintage cars -- Carol, Dave, Emma, Fred and so on, down to Ziggy -- all in exactly the same situation as Bob, with their own siding and their own switch, all sacrificing the child in order to preserve their own cherished car. Would that make it all right for Bob to do the same? To answer this question affirmatively is to endorse follow-the-crowd ethics -- the kind of ethics that led many Germans to look away when the Nazi atrocities were being committed.
We do not excuse them because others were behaving no better.
These readers seem to be acting at least as badly as Bob was acting when he chose to let the runaway train hurtle toward the unsuspecting child. Perhaps you should do it before reading further.
Now that you have distinguished yourself morally from people who put their vintage cars ahead of a child's life, how about treating yourself and your partner to dinner at your favorite restaurant? But wait. The money you will spend at the restaurant could also help save the lives of children overseas! And what is one month's dining out, compared to a child's life? There's the rub. Are you therefore obliged to keep giving until you have nothing left? At what point can you stop? Hypothetical examples can easily become farcical. Consider Bob. How far past losing the Bugatti should he go?
Imagine that Bob had got his foot stuck in the track of the siding, and if he diverted the train, then before it rammed the car it would also amputate his big toe. Should he still throw the switch? What if it would amputate his foot? His entire leg? As absurd as the Bugatti scenario gets when pushed to extremes, the point it raises is a serious one: only when the sacrifices become very significant indeed would most people be prepared to say that Bob does nothing wrong when he decides not to throw the switch.
Of course, most people could be wrong; we can't decide moral issues by taking opinion polls. But consider for yourself the level of sacrifice that you would demand of Bob, and then think about how much money you would have to give away in order to make a sacrifice that is roughly equal to that.
Isn't it counterproductive to ask people to do so much? Don't we run the risk that many will shrug their shoulders and say that morality, so conceived, is fine for saints but not for them? I accept that we are unlikely to see, in the near or even medium-term future, a world in which it is normal for wealthy Americans to give the bulk of their wealth to strangers. When it comes to praising or blaming people for what they do, we tend to use a standard that is relative to some conception of normal behavior.
Comfortably off Americans who give, say, 10 percent of their income to overseas aid organizations are so far ahead of most of their equally comfortable fellow citizens that I wouldn't go out of my way to chastise them for not doing more. Nevertheless, they should be doing much more, and they are in no position to criticize Bob for failing to make the much greater sacrifice of his Bugatti. At this point various objections may crop up. Someone may say: ''If every citizen living in the affluent nations contributed his or her share I wouldn't have to make such a drastic sacrifice, because long before such levels were reached, the resources would have been there to save the lives of all those children dying from lack of food or medical care.
So why should I give more than my fair share? Yet the question of how much we ought to give is a matter to be decided in the real world -- and that, sadly, is a world in which we know that most people do not, and in the immediate future will not, give substantial amounts to overseas aid agencies. We know, too, that at least in the next year, the United States Government is not going to meet even the very modest Umited Nations-recommended target of 0. Thus, we know that the money we can give beyond that theoretical ''fair share'' is still going to save lives that would otherwise be lost.
While the idea that no one need do more than his or her fair share is a powerful one, should it prevail if we know that others are not doing their fair share and that children will die preventable deaths unless we do more than our fair share? That would be taking fairness too far. Thus, this ground for limiting how much we ought to give also fails. In the world as it is now, I can see no escape from the conclusion that each one of us with wealth surplus to his or her essential needs should be giving most of it to help people suffering from poverty so dire as to be life-threatening.
That's right: I'm saying that you shouldn't buy that new car, take that cruise, redecorate the house or get that pricey new suit. So how does my philosophy break down in dollars and cents? Again, the formula is simple: whatever money you're spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away. Now, evolutionary psychologists tell us that human nature just isn't sufficiently altruistic to make it plausible that many people will sacrifice so much for strangers. On the facts of human nature, they might be right, but they would be wrong to draw a moral conclusion from those facts.
If it is the case that we ought to do things that, predictably, most of us won't do, then let's face that fact head-on.
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Then, if we value the life of a child more than going to fancy restaurants, the next time we dine out we will know that we could have done something better with our money. If that makes living a morally decent life extremely arduous, well, then that is the way things are. If we don't do it, then we should at least know that we are failing to live a morally decent life -- not because it is good to wallow in guilt but because knowing where we should be going is the first step toward heading in that direction.
When Bob first grasped the dilemma that faced him as he stood by that railway switch, he must have thought how extraordinarily unlucky he was to be placed in a situation in which he must choose between the life of an innocent child and the sacrifice of most of his savings. But he was not unlucky at all.
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We are all in that situation. Please upgrade your browser. See next articles. Here's my paraphrase of one of these examples: Bob is close to retirement. Newsletter Sign Up Continue reading the main story Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box. Invalid email address. Please re-enter. You must select a newsletter to subscribe to. Sign Up. You will receive emails containing news content , updates and promotions from The New York Times.
You may opt-out at any time. You agree to receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times's products and services. Thank you for subscribing. An error has occurred. These 50 sweet songs bring a swirl of styles, sounds, tempos, and genres, unscientifically devised for maximum sing-alongs, high-fives, window-wings, and introspective epiphanies. Anyone who spends enough time driving around this beautiful, bewildering country learns that interstate travel is low-key a path to enlightenment.
The more we see of each one another -- wherever we're from, wherever we're going -- the more we realize we're all out here together, looking for the same thing. Jim Morrison said that all Doors songs are about love, death, and travel. Simply put, this is the best driving song ever recorded.
A song about chair dancing that's impossible to sit still to. Ten points to the first person to spot a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac. Thanks, Kris Kristofferson, for penning one of the first-ever songs about road tripping. And thanks Janis Joplin for putting your own desperate, prematurely weary spin on this eternal classic. U2's most epic composition sounds like an open highway looks. With a single commercial -- one of the first to premiere on the Internet rather than TV -- Volkswagen sealed this achingly pretty song in the mind of a generation that will forever associate Nick Drake with meaningful night driving in a carload of friends.
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Kurt Vile and the Violators are millennial indie-rock's version of a '90s jam band, and this six-minute meander unspools with smoldering drama. The song is about introspection -- Vile very well might be behind the wheel as he ponders the fate of his long-ago friend Alex -- but the solo that comes at explodes into the stratosphere. Poet, children's author and Playboy cartoonist Shel Silverstein penned this song and later gave it to his pal Johnny Cash, who made it famous. But Silverstein's voice -- part gravel, part rubber, part cowboy, part New York Jew -- revels in the song's inherent ridiculousness.
And if you want a genuine shock, find his sequel, "Father of a Boy Named Sue. Though Cash's commanding baritone sells this tall tale of a tune that ricochets across the surprisingly rhymable American landscape, it was actually written by an Australian singer and originally oriented around the geography Down Under.
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In America we have deer. In Australia, kangaroos are apparently the most notorious dusk-time driving hazard. Remember that time you and your high school friends drove to that house party in the suburbs and Smashing Pumpkins was playing in the living room and everyone got too drunk and jumped in the pool?
Nobody was cooler than JJ Cale. If this slick disco-folk jam doesn't inspire quick escape to the great beyond, you should probably examine your priorities. Apologies to John Denver, but Toots did it better. West Jamaica! Sometimes you get in the car with someone and have no idea where you're going but you're on your way together and that's all that matters.
Like driving your car in reverse to take off excess mileage. Time to rethink your itinerary. One day you might find yourself driving a Ford LTD through the mean streets of LA, running over empty cardboard boxes and pursuing mustachioed criminals of dubious pedigree.
Or you might not. That mournful saxophone is the sound of your lonesome heart as you hurtle through the night into the distant unknown. Hard to name a TP song that isn't right for the road, but this one is the most literal. When feeling bad feels good, time to get in the car and drive.
The Dead certainly had more famous travel songs but none as groovy as this one. Like the Dead, the Allmans had a lot of songs about the road. Including this one, irresistible on the blacktop whether you're an actual fugitive or not. Wherever you go, there you are. Might as well party! Shade Sheist came and went with this, his one and only hit, but joined by Nate Dogg and Kurupt he clocked an all-time summer jam. Made famous by a slew of German bands in the s, this kind of music is called motorik for a reason.