Imagine living in a community where every minute of everyday you were hungry, underclothed, and at risk for death because you are poor. Now imagine waking up and your biggest problem was which sweater to wear with which jeans. Both are scenarios that occur on a daily basis in our countries, some more extreme than others are. With that in mind a question of whether or not rich nations have an obligation to help those nations if need arises. Professor of philosophy Peter Singer and biologist Garrett Hardin both have very different opinions on this matter and the following paper will focus on their arguments.
Peter Singer’s argument focuses greatly on the nation that citizens of rich nations can with ease help poor nations, without causing any financial burden, therefore, helping those in need should be done. Singer introduces his objective about the obligation to support the less fortunate nations by stating that, as humans if we can prevent something horrible from occurring, without sacrificing our moral integrity, then helping should not be considered a problem, and we should do it (Singer 331). According to Singer’s idea, the intention is not to push individuals into helping out the poor.
His intention is simply trying to make people realize that going out to a fancy restaurant, or taking that cruise around the world, is of less importance than helping out a starving young child who will die due to hunger (Singer 336. ) It hardly seems fair, when you look at situations as such and think, “while I’m in luxury, another is starving. ” Singer explains that the argument may be uncommon, but often times people still roll their eyes at the idea of sacrificing something small, in order to help out those in need.
Singer asks, why is downsizing such a problem for the “affluent,” many believe it is not helping that is a problem, it is helping those in distant lands that poses the problem. But if one where to examine the situation and realize that no mother and father would want to deprive their own children from; a good education, clothing, food, and shelter then why let someone else’s children endure the same hardship. By no means is Singer’s intention to promote that we as a wealthy nation are equally responsible for the life and death of people on other nations (Singer 337.
With regards to one’s own spending, Singer was not trying to propose that all luxuries be forfeited due to impoverished nations, however he was trying to show that there is in no way a moral comparison to luxury, or allowing someone to live a little longer. He suggests that money given to a charity could morally bring about the same type of satisfaction, than if going on vacation or spending money on a video games (Singer 336. ) Singer also suggests that often time’s society is afraid of where their money will end up or how it will be use when donated.
Singer names four charities that are in existence which are single-handedly devoted to improving the lives of those less fortunate (Singer 337. ) Arguments often times arise when people believe they would not be helping a situation that will only worsen. Worsen in the sense that, no matter how many efforts are made, the problem will not be reduced due to overpopulation. It is never heartening to hear that in the next ten-to-fifteen years the nation you helped will one again be overpopulated, and their need will be greater. It lends the idea that aiding the poor is only excuses to reproduce, therefore, causing more disease, hunger and famine.
It is the general idea that qualities of life will never changes, while the number of people will (Singer 340. ) The idea of overpopulation does raise a huge concern, but if we really care, Singer believes we can look past the situation and realize that there are no other alternatives. Singer suggests that, when speaking of assistance, people believe that only monetary contributions are expected, however Singer asks also about the medicinal and sanitary contributions that can be made (singer 340. ) It may not seem like the cure of the century, it does however allow the poor to live, whether it is one week or several years, it extends life.
Even after this argument many will still argue that helping unfortunate nations is only an excuse to improve the standard of living, but only for a while as the nation continues to grow. Singer argues that the outcomes can vary and that many should not donate because they feel what could happen. Many oppose Singer’s ideas solely on the basis of population, yet Singer believes that changes do occur over time, and there is no telling what the future hold, all that is known is that help is needed for there to be a future. Singer closes his argument, by explaining that overpopulation should not be a reason to deprive the less fortunate of life.
Monetary donations are not the only way to help, if it slowing down reproduction, Singer suggests “agricultural assistance for the rural poor, or assistance with education, or the provision of contraceptive services. ” (Singer 343. ) Any type of assistance is valued; no effort would ever be turned away. One the other side of this argument, biologist Garrett Hardin in a much shorter version, greatly opposes Singer’s arguments. Hardin’s position in fact, focuses on the positives of not assisting poor nations. Hardin begins by showing his views through the form of a metaphor. He offers the “lifeboat metaphor” (Hardin 344.
This metaphor talks of a lifeboat with a capacity of sixty people it is safe to assume that the fifty already aboard the lifeboat are well off. The fifty in the boat see another 100 swimming outside the water and are posed with the question of whether or not to allow others aboard the boat. Hardin shows different scenarios and ends with the notion that none of the 100 should be allowed aboard, due to the fact that leaving the original fifty, will guarantee survival. Hardin says that many may be guilt-ridden by allowing others to expire, but offers this opinion “Get out and yield your place to others” (Hardin 345.
In essence, saying if you want to risk your life for the poor, do it on your own time, and suffer the consequences. Hardin believe that once the quilt-ridden thinks of his survival, all others will seem unworthy. Hardin talks of overpopulation throughout his arguments. He talks about how if aid is given; it should be divided equally. He believes that needs should be based on everyone, not only those in foreign lands. Aside from his “lifeboat” theory, Hardin also uses what he calls his “Tragedy of commons” (Hardin 346), to explain his views on sharing our wealth.
He believes that everyone knows what he or she can and cannot “afford” so to speak. He talks of a farmer who has to decide whether or not to allow more cattle onto his farm, which I assume is Hardin’s metaphor for reproduction. The choices the farmer has are simple, allow only the full capacity of cattle, or overcrowd your pasture. The answer is simple, if you overcrowd the herd, “erosion sets in, weeds take over, and he loses the use of his pasture” (Hardin 346. ) If the pasture is allowed to become a commons area, then responsibility should lay within those who will benefit from it.
This relays closely with Hardin’ argument of how helping will not benefit those who will abuse it. Hardin gives examples of air and water, and although these are free, we in the United States and in nations around the world have managed to abuse and pollute them. Hardin argues that only with a strict responsibility, instead of a commons system could the problems of the unfortunate be solved. Next Hardin talks of the “World Food Bank” (Hardin 347. ) The World Food Bank is an international food depository that asks nations to contribute based on their abilities, therefore those in need would also profit.
Hardin suggests that, a food bank appeals to those who have humanitarian impulses. Examples of other food depository programs where mentioned, but all with the same end result, being that the United States businesses will end up providing more, and receiving less. While those who provide less will receive more. Also in this article the idea of “saving for a rainy day” is brought up. The question of what should be done with countries that do not save for these hardships. Hardships are said to come to those who are not prepared, and in the end those who are not prepared will suffer.
Hardin argues that with suffering comes knowledge (Hardin 347. ) Hardin also argues that with programs such as the World Food Bank, countries that are in need will take advantage of the programs and never progress, because “someone will always come to their rescue” (Hardin 348. ) Therefore also leaving an opening for countries to fail even further when there are shortages or impossibilities in aid. Hardin also states that, with helping these nations we are encouraging reproduction.
Hardin believes that without a food sharing system nations might one day stabilize, as well as stabilize and increase hose rich countries (Hardin 348. In closing Hardin, refers to the concept of “pure justice” (Hardin 351. ) We are all descendants of once horrible conditions regardless of the time frame. Hardin believes that it is from the bottom that we can progress. We cannot look at the past and decide now that a change has to be made. We cannot expect to spread our wealth equally in situations where reproduction is not decreasing but increasing. To be generous and giving is something that should come within oneself not because it is the “fan favorite.
Hardin argues that we as a government cannot slow or increase reproduction, therefore, it is impossible to increase or share our resources, because in the end someone will lose, and according to Hardin, one should satisfy him or herself as harsh as it may seem. Both arguments in essence seem fair. It is not the position of one to decide the fate of a nation. Both Hardin and Singer do not disagree that there is a problem, however both are passionate about other forms of justice. There are many of us that take everyday necessities for granted, and some of these things those less fortunate may never have a chance to experience.
The gap between the rich and the poor expands on a daily basis and will continue throughout the world. It is a question of how we want to change that. Is Singer right, because he says to help everyone, and give up our a little life’s luxuries, because it will be fulfilling in the end, to know we helped out? Or is Hardin right by saying that we should go about our daily routines as we would, because the world is going to have downfalls? It is our responsibility as human beings to decide what is right and what is wrong, this argument should not be decided by an article. Opinions and sides are going to vary.