Essay #2- Singer and Hardin - Brinck 1 Jack Brinck Danison...

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Brinck 1 Jack Brinck Danison Robinson WRIT-140: Contemporary Social and Moral Issues Essay #2: Hardin and Singer September 24 th , 2006 In his essay entitled “Rich and Poor”, philosopher Peter Singer asserts the poverty problem in the world is huge: 400 million people lack the nutrients required to physically develop properly and live healthily, and 800 million live in absolute poverty, or “life at the very margin of existence” (539). Philosopher Garret Hardin tells us that the population rate of developing countries increases at 3.3% per year, meaning their population doubles every 21 years, an astounding number (2). Clearly, with the existence of terrible poverty around the world, and the prospect of an exponentially greater number of people living in absolute poverty, this issue must be addressed. When asked of this situation, many will reply that the wealthier nations ought to come to the aid of the ones in deep poverty. However, when fully examined, it becomes readily apparent that quite the contrary is the case. Wealthier nations under almost no circumstance have an ethical obligation to assist poverty-stricken nations, for Hardin’s lifeboat metaphor accurately describes the nature of the world’s poverty problem, and in fact attempting to remedy the current poverty problem merely exacerbates the global poorness problem in the long run because Singer’s rationale behind a World Food Bank is faulty and would solve no problems. The lifeboat metaphor is an accurate and useful explanation for what wealthier nations ought to do regarding aiding poverty-stricken countries. According to Hardin’s lifeboat metaphor, the rich countries that live in affluence occupy 50 of the 60 seats on a lifeboat (1). Outside the boat are 100 drowning people, which represent the nations immersed in poverty. Now as the 50 in the lifeboat, we can attempt to aid all 100 by letting all onto the lifeboat, by
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Brinck 2 letting 10 in to fill the boat to its capacity of 60, or let none in. The first option fills the lifeboat way beyond its capacity, and all aboard drown. The second option dictates that somehow the 50 wealthiest nations choose which 10 countries to aid. By admitting 10, however, we have reached maximum capacity and have lost our “safety factor,” or room for error to assure all goes right.
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