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In his article “The Singer Solution to World Poverty”, originally published in The New York Times Magazine in 2009, Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University’s Center for Human Values, claims that it is immoral for people from developed countries to spend significant amounts of their household incomes on luxuries or things they could easily get alone without and not use their cash to solve global problems such as poverty, malnutrition, and spread of preventable diseases. The writer uses numerous examples to convince his readers that it is wrong to enjoy expensive vacations or drive expensive cars without giving substantial sums of money to organizations that try to alleviate poverty, solve the problem of hunger or prevent easily treatable illnesses. Singer explains that only $200 would be sufficient to transform “a sickly two-year-old…into a healthy six-year-old – offering safe passage through childhood’s most dangerous years” (329). He points out that modern technologies make it very easy for people to donate to charities that help and work with poor countries. Singer argues that when one is informed of the need to help others and how he or she can donate to good causes but fails to give of one’s income to the needy, such a person leads unethical life. The author challenges his readers to act on their new gained knowledge and engage in efforts aimed to contribute to solving the problem of world poverty. Finally, Singer compels everyone to make the right choice between increasing personal savings or sacrificing and giving to save lives of innocent children.
However, Garrett Hardin, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, holds the contrary opinion. In his article “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor”, he argues that wealthy nations should not help poor ones because continuous donations of money and food products to poor nations cause their populations to multiply and increase the number of people in the need of outside help. The author explains that world finances and natural resources are limited. Therefore, it is unwise and irresponsible to help poor nations that account for high demographic growth and subsequent increase of the world population since growing population cannot be sustained with available resources. Hardin uses a “lifeboat” analogy to demonstrate that only a limited number of people can live comfortably on the planet. He states that attempts to share resources equally and place more people into the global “lifeboat” will exhaust existing resources, ruin the world economy, and overload global environment. Finally, Hardin concludes by saying that a failure to follow “the ethics of a lifeboat” (789) and maintain principles of equality and justice when it comes to resource sharing and population control will bring environmental ruin and devastate the world.
The analysis of articles by Singer and Hardin demonstrates that authors hold contrasting views and have different answers to the question whether people from rich nations should donate their salaries to international aid organizations to help poor people far away. On one hand, it seems that poor people need food, access to drinking water, sanitation, and adequate healthcare services. One may feel that a failure to help poor nations would be unethical since rich nations with strong economies have excess food and resources they could share to alleviate sufferings of people in poor countries. Saved lives, stronger health, and lower poverty and mortality rates would be among benefits of giving to the poor. However, giving to the poor and charitable organizations may turn to be counterproductive. For example, getting used to relying on outside help may harm initiative and self-development of the poor, making them continuously reliant on others and unable to take care of themselves and solve their problems independently.
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The analysis of writings by Singer and Hardin on the issue of helping the poor shows that they disagree completely with each other. While Singer promotes and advocates donating to poor nations and considers it as one’s ethical responsibility to share with less fortunate, Hardin believes that it is wrong to donate since giving to the poor harms the world economy and resources much more than it helps the poor. In Hardin’s opinion, disadvantages of making donations to poor nations far outweigh benefits. However, Singer writes, “Each of us with wealth surplus to his or her essential needs should be giving most of it to people suffering from poverty so dire as to be life-threatening” (332). The author goes on to say that giving away of one’s wealth is the way to live a morally decent life (Singer 333). Therefore, Singer is convinced that living ethical life implies continuous giving as the fair way to redistribute resources and solve global problems of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. Thus, he considers the idea of donating salaries to international aid organizations to help poor people as valid, ethical, and justified.
However, Hardin does not share Singer’s view and brings up several arguments to claim that giving to the poor is an invalid solution to eliminate poverty. The author writes that poor countries report three-four times higher population increase than rich countries. He explains that helping poor countries will result in even higher birth rates, resulting in a greater number of poor people born who need food and resources. Hardin believes that by helping poor countries, poor people will multiply to such extent that rich countries will not have enough money and food to help them (780). Therefore, he argues that global society should choose the hard way and stop helping the poor in order to prevent the cycle of poverty. The author wrote that those who have the “love of justice and equality, would institute a system” that will result in the “environmental ruin” (Hardin 789). Hardin claims that although the proposal of sharing the wealth with the needy may appear “morally and logically sound” (788), pursuing the way of giving to poor nations will lead to self-destruction of the world economy and environmental problems. Thus, Hardin’s writing shows that he is a convinced opponent of actions and strategies aimed to bring about equality by sharing excessive resources with the poor. Therefore, he opposes the idea of donating salaries to international aid organizations to help poor nations.
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Apparently, before determining whether it is a good idea to donate one’s salary to international aid organizations to help poor people, one should evaluate pros and cons of regular giving. On one hand, Singer’s call to donate to less fortunate seems ethical and motivates people to seriously consider helping others. Therefore, the effect of following Singer’s perspectives evoked the desire to help alleviate poverty, preventable diseases, and malnutrition among the poor. On the other hand, Hardin’s arguments against giving to poor nations also seem reasonable, logically sound, and justified. Consequently, the effect of listening to Hardin’s point of view is the desire to investigate the question at issue further to determine advantages and drawbacks of helping poor nations and make an informed decision. Therefore, each author presents persuasive arguments that have the power to transform readers’ views, influence decision making and convincingly demonstrate advantages of solutions recommended by them. Perhaps, the truth is somewhere in the middle since it seems that neither continuous giving nor withholding all the aid completely appears to be both effective and moral solutions to poverty and hunger.