Type: Review
Pages: 2 | Words: 326
Reading Time: 2 Minutes

If I convince you, will you let me go? Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor

By Garrett Hardin, Psychology Today, September 1974

The author of this article seeks to rationalize the act of helping the poor or those in need. In the humanitarian and Christian world, it is selfish not to help anyone who needs your help; however, where do we draw the philanthropic line? He uses illustrations to explain his arguments. For example, he uses the metaphor of spaceship situation (a drift in a moral sea), where admitting or not admitting more people into a spaceship might exceed its capacity.

This illustration makes it easy for readers to relate to his arguments. He says that guilt drives some people into helping others, while some people, who ask for help, do not feel guilty for needing this help. His main aim is to establish the “helping” relationship between poor and rich nations, and the morals attached to this help. In addition to this, he asks if it is necessary for the rich nations to offer help, and to what extent, and how the poor nations view this help. He uses subtopics to offer specific explanations in the article and create emphasis on specific topics. This helps readers follow the article without boredom or confusion.

The article emphasizes the ethics of helping poor nations and relates its ethical arguments with environmental and moral situations. In addition to the environmental ethics, he argues about utilitarianism and the depletion of natural resources. In the morality of helping, the author touches the topic responsibility, using examples of cases where people become responsible over things. He calls this “the tragedy of the commons”. This article helps questioning the ethics employed in certain humanitarian policies, such as foreign aid, food banks and immigration. He compares the population of the UnitedState to other countries, especially those in need of aid from the United States. The author captures reader’s attention by offering appropriate statistics and scenarios.

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