Rights to Help the Poor? Some people have much more than they need to live while others barely have enough to survive. Very frequently, the “haves” possess no special virtues, or superpowers only a mere few posess; they are just simply lucky to have been born in relatively prosperous societies. Very frequently, the “have-nots” are desperate through no fault of their own — for example, victims of natural disasters such as famine, those born into third world countries , lower-income class families, and even those who fell victim to the crumbling economy.
But what are the obligations, if any of the “haves” toward the “have-nots” in these cases? As Americans, we have Constitutional Rights, and nowhere in these documents does it state we must provide for our neighbor. The Bible, states “Thought shall love thy neighbor,” but there too, is no insinuation or outright law requiring society as a whole must care anyone. Nobody is put on this planet better than you, but some individuals are better for humanity.
Garrett Hardin, Author of “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case against Helping the Poor”, argues this same point; that the “haves” require no responsibility towards the “have-nots”. But we are Americans. And In America, one of the reasons we are such a great nation, is our compassion. Our Lady Liberty stands tall saying, “Our doors will not close”, reaching out to those who want opportunity and a better life. We should not need a requirement to help out a fellow American, but we should instead be asking how we can help a fellow American.
Consider the following. Rhetorical Precis – Singer 1: Peter Singer, an Austrailian Philosopher and Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University argues in his essay ,“Famine, Affluence, and Morality” that suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad. 2: If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought to do it. 3: It is in our power, in order to prevent suffering and death, to give money to causes such as famine relief. : Therefore, we have a moral obligation to give money to causes such as famine relief, poverty stricken families, and disaster relief. We should give and it is wrong not to give. Imagine spending a nice weekend a lake, enjoying the sunshine, floating around wherever the wind blows, and twenty feet away a child drowning. Is it the American way to ignore the situation, keep basking in the otherwise tranquil environment and letting that child succumb to fate? If you hit someone’s dog while driving down the road, would you stop to help out the animal and contact a veterinarian or the owner?
And if you witnessed a girl being abducted in a mall parking lot, what would your reaction be? These different scenarios register on the same moral compass as helping those in need on our land. As our land is such a melting pot of mixed nationalities, races and cultures, what once was one moral compass working in unison is now on the verge of flipping poles. Dictionary. com defines a melting pot as, “A term expressing the view that immigrants to the United States have been fused or melted into a single people. Wikipedia challenges,“After 1970 the desirability of assimilation and the melting pot model was challenged by proponents of multiculturalism, who assert that cultural differences within society are valuable and should be preserved, proposing the alternative metaphor of the salad bowl – different cultures mix, but remain distinct. ” Within this mixing of peoples we are not only very noble, but with such a “salad bowl” effect, we have also become slightly introverted, dwindling away at the compassion and kindness we built this Nation on. Let’s break this down further.
Examining the title of Garrett Hardin’s “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case against Helping the Poor”, we could deduce the rich nations and or people are the lifeboats and the poor nations are the people adrift in the sea clamoring to get aboard. Each lifeboat has limited capacity. Complete generosity, justice and equality would equal complete catastrophe for all. Complete selfishness, unjust and discrimination would result in two outcomes: disaster for one group and survival for the other. As the World’s superpower, we should have the means to find a happy medium, and invoke it as regularly as possible.
Poor nations are having children at a rate far surpassing the rich ones. Statistically their population doubles every 21 years while rich nations’ doubles every 87 years. 88% of the World’s children are born poor, therefore if we let the poor on board and they keep reproducing at the same rate, our lifeboat will go down much faster. The fundamental error of “spaceship ethics” is the “tragedy of the commons”. The world’s air and water are commons. The pollution of the air and water result in depletion of fish. The resulting tragedy is that everybody eventually dies: the responsible stewards as well as the irresponsible ones.
The World Food Bank is no answer. The program is a promising deal for special interests (farmers, railroads, manufacturers of farm equipment and fertilizer, etc. ), funded by taxpayers. It contributes to the depletion of soil through the use of chemical fertilizers, but more importantly, it creates a commons. There is no incentive for poor nations to plan ahead. Someone will always come to their aid. Furthermore, a world food bank hurts population control efforts. If the sympathetic do-gooders of the World stopped their interference, population control would happen “naturally” — albeit gruesomely — by crop failures and famine.
The Chinese fish approach (“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach him to fish and he will eat for the rest of his days”) will fail to solve the real problem as well. It is a simple ratio matter of ecological limits: too many people are going to spoil the balance of nature. It is a zero-sum game: the more people use, the less remains for others. The environment is going to become overloaded and eventually shut herself down. Alan Gregg quoted, “Cancerous growths demand food, but … they have never been cured by getting it. Similar arguments apply against immigration of people from poor nations to rich ones. Capitalists should recognize that their policy of exploiting lower-paid foreign workers is eventually going to backfire ecologically. Thus, “we cannot safely divide the wealth equitably among all peoples so long as people reproduce at different rates. ” So how does one attempt to approach the issue at hand? Fall back to the old barter system. The World was a much simpler, happier place when we were relying on the good nature of doing things out of the kindness of our own hearts, and exchanging goods for services.
We should educate third world countries on birth control, in order to slow down their rapidly increasing populations in poor conditions, hereby reducing negative effects on the commons. Teach these nations how to farm to feed the communities they have, and show compassion. Correct, these changes will not be seen in our lifetimes, but with any luck, our great grandchildren will be able to say we were the pioneers of our times, turning back the hands of time to heal their futures.