The Case Against Helping The Poor

Decent Essays

Garret Hardin, in his 1974 article “Lifeboat Ethics: the Case against Helping the Poor,” comes to completely opposite conclusions using utilitarianism than most of his peers. The question Hardin posits is, “does everyone on earth have an equal right to an equal share of its resources?” To answer this question Harden uses the metaphor of a lifeboat. Each wealthy nation represents a lifeboat full of rich people while the poor are adrift in the ocean outside of the lifeboats who are desperately trying to climb on board. For this exercise, Hardin divides the world such that two thirds of the nations fall into the poor category while one third are considered rich.
Each country has a limited number of resources and can therefore only allow a certain number of people onto the lifeboat. This analogy would represent allowing a select number from poor nations to immigrate to the wealthy nations or simply sharing available resources with the poor (such as money, energy, or other forms of aid). If the lifeboat has a carrying capacity of sixty and fifty people are already onboard. Outside of the boat, there are one hundred who want on board. How are the members of the lifeboat going to decide which of the poor can come aboard? It is not possible to allow them all on board because resources are limited and overpopulation on the lifeboat would cause it to flood, thus ensuring that everyone on board drowns. By utilitarian standards, this would cause the most harm to everyone

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