Do Rich Nations Have an Obligation to Help Poor Nations? Essay

Pages: 5 (1476 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy

Philosophy - Economic Ethics


Rich and Poor by Peter Singer:

In Rich and Poor, Singer outlines the proportion of the global human population that lives in poverty and considers the respective arguments about whether or not (and to what extent) citizens of industrialized so-called First-World countries have a moral obligation to assist citizens of so-called Third-World countries. More than a decade and a half since its writing, the specific facts and figures quoted in the essay are out of date, but the conceptual arguments remain substantially the same, irrespective of any changes in precise population estimates or changed circumstances of any of the nations and peoples referenced by Singer in 1993. In that regard, an unacceptably large percentage of human beings alive on earth still endure absolute poverty - a concept defined by Singer - and a disproportionately vast majority of the earth's food and other resources are continually being consumed by citizens living in what Singer describes as absolute affluence. According to Singer, the concept of absolute poverty was introduced by Robert McNamara and used to differentiate the reality of (relative) poverty that exists in the industrialized nations of the Western World from the incomparably harsh reality endured by more than one billion human beings living in absolute poverty in the Third World.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Essay on Do Rich Nations Have an Obligation to Help Poor Nations? Assignment

In the more developed countries, poverty means reliance on government assistance programs, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters. In the West, even the poor generally receive enough assistance to eat the minimum necessary calories to avoid malnutrition and sleep somewhere sheltered from the elements. Their poverty status is in relation to other in their society who are wealthy enough to own property and enjoy some of the privileges of relative affluence. However, the type of poverty experienced by more than one billion human beings elsewhere on earth qualifies as absolute, by virtue of their lack of the most basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. Singer proposes an analogous characterization of absolute affluence to describe the living conditions of the average person living in more developed societies. According to Singer, the living conditions of even the decidedly non-wealthy in the United States represents unimaginable wealth and luxury to the poor in Third-World nations.

Singer suggests that those of us fortunate enough to live in absolute affluence in societies where even the poor enjoy general good nutrition, health, and relative longevity owe an affirmative moral duty to provide more assistance to those enduring lives of absolute poverty in other parts of the world. He uses the analogy of the moral obligation to rescue a drowning child at little comparative cost to the rescuer and suggests that the same principle applies to addressing global poverty. Specifically, the argument is that a moral duty to intervene to save a stranger exists anytime the act of rescue can be accomplished without substantial cost to the rescuer. Therefore, while no moral duty necessarily exists to risk one's own life to save a child drowning in a semi-frozen lake after falling through the ice, a moral duty does apply to the act of simply wading into shallow water to do so, perhaps at the price of a ruined set of clothes or schedule. Singer applies that reasoning to the situation of global (absolute) poverty and outlines the four-step logical basis for the moral duty to intervene on the part of the (absolutely) affluent. First, one should be willing to make nominal sacrifices to prevent great harm to others; second, absolute poverty qualifies as "great harm"; and third, absolute poverty is preventable or rectifiable, at least to some degree, by our action. Therefore, we should do something to address absolute poverty.

Singer anticipates several specific logical objections to his conclusion: first, the argument that one has a moral duty to care for one's own before any comparable duty to care for remote strangers; second, that any automatic moral duty to assist strangers conflicts with fundamental notions of autonomous property rights; and third, that the logical basis of triage in the face of insufficient medical resources provides a more appropriate model for any moral duty owed by us to the absolute poor in the Third World. Similarly, Singer anticipates the lifeboat ethics analogy proposed by Garrett Hardin as well. The author summarily dispenses with the first argument, citing the arbitrary nature of sameness and its fundamental conflict with modern views of human rights. He overcomes the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Do Rich Nations Have an Obligation to Help Poor Nations?" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Do Rich Nations Have an Obligation to Help Poor Nations?.  (2009, March 21).  Retrieved October 30, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Do Rich Nations Have an Obligation to Help Poor Nations?."  21 March 2009.  Web.  30 October 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Do Rich Nations Have an Obligation to Help Poor Nations?."  March 21, 2009.  Accessed October 30, 2020.