Aid to the extremely poor and ethical "minimal decency&

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What is our obligation to those in extreme poverty?
The primary focus of our society should be to help 29%  29%  [ 4 ]
We should give a lot more, but not to the exlusion of developing our society 14%  14%  [ 2 ]
Whatever we can spare is enough 14%  14%  [ 2 ]
Not our fault, not our problem 29%  29%  [ 4 ]
I care about your poll less than the poor; gimme the results 14%  14%  [ 2 ]
Total votes : 14

twoshots
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26 May 2009, 9:57 pm

An article summing up this article appeared in newspapers across the US earlier this month; you may have seen it. Click it:
America's Shame: When are we going to do something about global poverty?
Alright, Singer's pissed some people off in the past, but this article isn't terribly far out there really. Anyway, the article goes farther than "we have some responsibility to help those who aren't well off". The premise is, given the some 1+ billion people living in extreme poverty on the earth (ie living on less than a buck twenty five a day), the failure to not do more - a lot more - implies

Peter Singer wrote:
[T]he vast majority of us who live in developed nations are not living an even minimally decent ethical life. Almost all of us spend money on luxuries — after all, even bottled water is a luxury when the water that comes out of the tap is free. Should we be spending money on that, and on other unnecessary items with much larger price tags, when the money we are spending on things we don't need could save a life?
(emphasis added)
Some of his proposals are pretty radical (although his calculator for how much aid you should give doesn't strike me as terribly draconian), but the conclusion isn't that far out there.

Is it justified (or even not damnable) to devote so little energy to the alleviation of poverty when we have such plenty?

More generally, when is it acceptable to not help someone in need?


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26 May 2009, 10:03 pm

twoshots wrote:
Is it justified (or even not damnable) to devote so little energy to the alleviation of poverty when we have such plenty?

Not really.

Quote:
More generally, when is it acceptable to not help someone in need?

When you harm someone else in the process.


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twoshots
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26 May 2009, 10:16 pm

Hmm. Maybe I need to grill us a bit more. What is the response to the thesis:

"[T]he vast majority of us who live in developed nations are not living an even minimally decent ethical life."

Not that we are weak to middling kinda "could be better" but that we are all rather odious. It certainly isn't too much to say that people are flakier than they should be, but Singer here is proposing that a huge overhaul of the way we approach things is the only morally acceptable choice. If 27K dead children is unacceptable, by how many does that number need to drop before it is acceptable; where do we draw the line between "total devotion of energy to improving the quality of life of the extremely poor being the only morally acceptable action" and "well, I've done my part, it's Miller time"?


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pakled
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26 May 2009, 10:58 pm

depends on where you're going with this.

We've given the Chinese over a trillion of our dollars, sent millions of jobs to Asia, spent hundreds of billions of dollars (much of that misguided, and eventually ineffectual) to every corner of the world.

In some sense, yes, we haven't done 'enough'. Right now, though, what about the poor we have here in the US? Charity begins at home, and frankly, a lot of people are too poor to give, yet still they do.

There are even growing movements in the 3rd world, who are actually tired of the developed world just shoving money at them, and expecting things to just improve overnight.

Perhaps, instead of trying to 'buy' a clean conscience, we should actually be talking to people around the world, and see not only what, but if, they actually want help.

all for now...let the fur fly.



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26 May 2009, 11:02 pm

I agree with the point that the majority of people are not living the minimally ethical life, if we hold to assumptions that are at least utilitarian friendly, which a large number of ethical systems are.

In any case, I am not sure if a hard line is something that can, or really should be done from a utilitarian viewpoint. If there is continually perceived room for improvement, then there is more reason to attack shirking when one is close to the goal, and generally it would probably be considered better to get slightly past the goal rather than slightly under the goal.



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26 May 2009, 11:12 pm

Well, I'm going to sort of digress from the topic at hand. I'm not dead certain on how much we are obligated to give. I am fairly certain we are falling short. But, the more pertinent point would be how we give. That is to say, governments shouldn't give for crass, strategic purposes. The humanitarian goal, rather than either propping up unjust (but affable to us) regimes with aid or trying to buy credibility in hostile regions, must be primary.

I know strategic goals seem a lot more pragmatic and you may think we can kill two birds with a single stone, but more often than not the strategic goals interfere or obscure the humanitarian mission.



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27 May 2009, 12:26 am

The third world is none of the United States' concern unless it is of some benefit to the US financially or militarily. Americans pay outrageous taxes expecting it will go back into the government and benefit them. Not for sending billions of dollars out of the economy for aid for people that are not consituents of the elected officials in charge of appropriating the money.


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Awesomelyglorious
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27 May 2009, 1:43 am

John_Browning wrote:
The third world is none of the United States' concern unless it is of some benefit to the US financially or militarily. Americans pay outrageous taxes expecting it will go back into the government and benefit them. Not for sending billions of dollars out of the economy for aid for people that are not consituents of the elected officials in charge of appropriating the money.

Technically, twoshots' point has nothing to do with government appropriated foreign aid, but rather can apply to private funding to help the 3rd world as well, so there is nothing in this post that conflicts with individualism. In fact, Singer's calculator assumes individual donations, as opposed to government taxes.



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27 May 2009, 2:31 am

Awesomelyglorious wrote:
John_Browning wrote:
The third world is none of the United States' concern unless it is of some benefit to the US financially or militarily. Americans pay outrageous taxes expecting it will go back into the government and benefit them. Not for sending billions of dollars out of the economy for aid for people that are not consituents of the elected officials in charge of appropriating the money.

Technically, twoshots' point has nothing to do with government appropriated foreign aid, but rather can apply to private funding to help the 3rd world as well, so there is nothing in this post that conflicts with individualism. In fact, Singer's calculator assumes individual donations, as opposed to government taxes.

If we are talking about private donations to charities, then people should do whatever they want (except for Islamic "charities") without any guilt trip being placed on those who don't donate.


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twoshots
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27 May 2009, 11:42 am

John_Browning wrote:
If we are talking about private donations to charities, then people should do whatever they want (except for Islamic "charities") without any guilt trip being placed on those who don't donate.

So, people have no moral imperative to help other people in desperate need, even if the ability to help is well within their means? To borrow Singer's analogy, if a man was walking past a pond in which a boy was drowning, he could easily help, but it would ruin his expensive shoes to do so, it is morally neutral for him to ignore the situation and continue on his merry way? If the analogy breaks down, where do you see the difference?


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codarac
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27 May 2009, 5:23 pm

twoshots wrote:
John_Browning wrote:
If we are talking about private donations to charities, then people should do whatever they want (except for Islamic "charities") without any guilt trip being placed on those who don't donate.

So, people have no moral imperative to help other people in desperate need, even if the ability to help is well within their means?


It depends which 'other people' we are talking about, and in which context.

1. The disparities in wealth between the various nations are not just down to luck and political systems; the disparities have a great deal to do with racial differences (in intelligence and other traits)

2. 'Morality' is derived from evolutionarily adaptive behaviour. A person has a greater 'natural' moral obligation towards members of their own race than towards members of outgroups. Europeans can keep giving away money and (more importantly) living space to Third Worlders, and the Third Worlders might never rise above their current levels of prosperity ... but in a few generations the Third Worlders might have doubled or trebled or quadrupled in number, and the Europeans might be on the verge of extinction. And there wouldn't be anything moral about that.

Again, I'll probably get hounded for repeating the same old arguments, but ... again ... I've written what I've written because it seems to me this is yet another thread founded on the false idea of the equality of man.



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27 May 2009, 5:59 pm

We need to understand that, at least speaking for America, it's not that we're not helping alleviate world-wide poverty, it's that we're actively supporting and continuing it.

Much of the world stays poor because of institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, etc.

If our intentions are to eliminate world-wide poverty, our intention should be to seriously reverse US policy regarding international trade and loaning agreements. Right now we are predatory lenders.



twoshots
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27 May 2009, 6:14 pm

codarac wrote:
It depends which 'other people' we are talking about, and in which context.

1. The disparities in wealth between the various nations are not just down to luck and political systems; the disparities have a great deal to do with racial differences (in intelligence and other traits)

2. 'Morality' is derived from evolutionarily adaptive behaviour. A person has a greater 'natural' moral obligation towards members of their own race than towards members of outgroups. Europeans can keep giving away money and (more importantly) living space to Third Worlders, and the Third Worlders might never rise above their current levels of prosperity ... but in a few generations the Third Worlders might have doubled or trebled or quadrupled in number, and the Europeans might be on the verge of extinction. And there wouldn't be anything moral about that.

Again, I'll probably get hounded for repeating the same old arguments, but ... again ... I've written what I've written because it seems to me this is yet another thread founded on the false idea of the equality of man.

Y'know, it's not every day that I get so appalled morally and intellectually that I can't collect my thoughts enough to produce a rational response. But damn, you've got some skills.


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27 May 2009, 6:52 pm

twoshots wrote:
John_Browning wrote:
If we are talking about private donations to charities, then people should do whatever they want (except for Islamic "charities") without any guilt trip being placed on those who don't donate.

So, people have no moral imperative to help other people in desperate need, even if the ability to help is well within their means? To borrow Singer's analogy, if a man was walking past a pond in which a boy was drowning, he could easily help, but it would ruin his expensive shoes to do so, it is morally neutral for him to ignore the situation and continue on his merry way? If the analogy breaks down, where do you see the difference?

Nobody is required to rescue anyone in a life threatening situation. The man with the nice shoes would not be criminally or civily liable for letting the boy drown. Likewise, people have no responsibility to help other people financially.


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twoshots
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27 May 2009, 7:01 pm

John_Browning wrote:
Nobody is required to rescue anyone in a life threatening situation. The man with the nice shoes would not be criminally or civily liable for letting the boy drown. Likewise, people have no responsibility to help other people financially.

You're conflating two distinct things - legal liability and moral culpability. The man in the above situation may not be criminally or civilly liable, but that's not the point. The point is whether he is morally reprehensible if he does so; it is a common enough intuition that he is in fact reprehensible in that situation that I'm afraid a bit more justification is necessary before your position may be considered adequately explicated.


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techstepgenr8tion
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27 May 2009, 7:58 pm

I think the first option but people can also debate the meaning of help - such as that some would prefer education and job findind assistance while others will call this a sham or a ruse for covertly doing nothing - who would rather see people forced to give more rather than train.

I tend to lean more to the educate side - as in do all you can to help those who want it, let those who don't realize that the mobility is there and ready for them when they can get their head around the motivational issues. Although these days I still need a disclaimer and to state the obvious - people who are truly disabled and can't make it happen by reasons beyond their means should absolutely receive broader assistance; being for one doesn't make you by necessity anti the other.