Should People Living in more Affluent Countries Have the Moral Obligation to Provide for the Poor in Other Parts of the World

Should People Living in more Affluent Countries Have the Moral Obligation to Provide for the Poor in Other Parts of the World

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In this paper I will look at the argument made by Peter Singer in his paper, “Famine, Affluence and Morality” which advocates that those people living in more affluent countries have a moral obligation to provide assistance to the poor in other parts of the world. I will first outline the basic premise of Singer’s argument supporting this moral obligation and whether it is a sound argument. Secondly, I will look at an alternative view provided by Garrett Hardin in his paper, “Living on a Lifeboat”, which suggests that maintaining one’s own self-interest is more important and, in fact, necessary to prevent our own downfall. Finally, I will show why, in principle at least, I support one of the ideas put forth by Hardin and why it allows for some charity while at the same time acknowledging the limitations of aid.
Singer believes that coming from the benefit of an affluent society we are morally obligated to provide aid and assistance to those in the world who do not share our level of comfort, but are actually suffering from lack of the necessities of life. Singer states, “If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally to do it.” (Singer, 2013, p. 684) What Singer is trying to say is that providing aid to those who require it should be an automatic response and that if we are able to provide such aid, we are obligated to do so. What is not so easy to know, however, is how much we should be willing to give and when to give. Problems arise based on many factors which I will attempt to explain why this is a problem.
First, often we make statements such as, if everyone was willing to give the same small amount, say $5.00, there...


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...e danger either. In simpler terms I think, we should take care of ourselves first and then with whatever is left over, we provide aid and assistance to others in need. While this does not meet Singer’s whole ideal of providing the most help we can possibly provide, it is certainly far better than providing no assistance at all. I do not believe that it makes sense to give to the point of creating suffering for the giver, but that giving a little can be rewarding for all parties involved.



Works Cited

Hardin, G. (2013). Living on a Lifeboat. In L. Vaughn, Contemporary Moral Arguments - Readings in Ethical Issues Second Edition (pp. 662-672). New York: Oxford University Press.
Singer, P. (2013). Famine, Affluence and Morality. In L. Vaughn, Contemporary Moral Arguments - Readings in Ethical Issues Second Edition (pp. 683-690). New York: Oxford University Press.

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