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
In the article “Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor”, the author Garrett Hardin raised the question that whether the rich countries should help people suffer from poverty. He claimed that the supporting strategies for the developing countries, including the World Food Bank could result in more severe recourse inadequate issue and other disasters. In addition, a large number of immigrants flood in the US could ruin the natural environment and social balance. In that case, the author argued that regardless of the current situation, privileged nations should not provide aid to people trapped within difficulties of the underdeveloped nations. Even though, his
Garrett Hardin published in Psychology Today in September 1974. This passage is an excerpt from his popular paper “The Tragedy of the Commons” as a warning that overpopulation was dangerous due to how limited Earth’s resources are. This theory is reflected in Hardin’s thesis that the rich should do nothing to help the people of poor nations and turn away those trying to come in. Hardin used the imagery of a lifeboat almost filled in a sea full of drowning people to pose and answer a single question, “what should the lifeboat passengers do?” (290). Hardin's answer was to defend the boat against all trying to board. If anyone felt guilty about this course of action they should feel free to swap places with a drowning man and give them their
It should be obvious that this is a dubious metaphor. To begin with (and this will come up again) not all countries are either rich or poor. Furthermore, it is not as clear as Hardin assumes that we lack the resources to save everyone. And the argument from the safety factor may seem dubious. Couldn't we help some people -- even if we select them in a fairly arbitrary way?
In the essay Lifeboat Ethics by Garrett Hardin and the essay A Challenge to the Eco-Doomsters by Walter Benjamin, there are many things I agree and disagree with. Both essays make very good points with facts to back them up. But I can’t help but side with Hardin on his essay Lifeboat Ethics. In this essay I am going to compare and contrast some of the similarities and differences between Hardin and Benjamin’s essays about the aid the United States provides to poor nations all over the world by reducing pollution, controlling population growth, and the dependency of economical imports and exports.
This increases the responsibility of the state for looking after its citizens as the poorer population of the country grows in numbers. Hardin demonstrates this in ‘Living on a Lifeboat’ by examining the rate of reproduction of the poor in comparison to the wealthy. According to Hardin, the population of the poorer classes doubles every thirty-five years, whilst the wealthier classes experience the same growth over a period of eighty-seven years. (Hardin, 1974) In a lifeboat situation, this reproduction rate would mean the poor would be heavily reliant on the income and supplies of the wealthy. Due to this Hardin states that the wealthy must assume that the poor will be self-interested and sharing our resources with them will only be harmful to our own survival. (Hardin, 1974) Why should the wealthy share if they get nothing from the poor in return? They deposit their supplies into a shared collective on the boat and the poor on-board take it without giving anything back. Hardin refers to this as the ‘tragedy of the commons’ and if taken into a real-life situation we are presented with the development of social benefits for the poor - a system in which the rich pay taxes in order for the poor to be financially supported through state benefits, social housing etc. (Hardin,
At first Hardin’s ethics seem rude and selfish, but as you continue reading he makes it clear this may be the only way to save our world and have it become a better place. For instance, "on the average poor countries undergo a 2.5 percent increase in population each year; rich countries, about 0.8 percent. If the poor countries received no food from the out side, the rate of their population growth […]" (Hardin 4). Hardin continues his piece explaining why rich countries should not help poorer countries that are in need. He believes a poor country that needs support needs to learn the hard way, even if that means losing resources or people. His words like "rich countries", "no food" shows the use of a metaphor that Hardin is able to paint a visual illustration of his argument to his audience. This helps influence and persuade his readers because they are able to grasp the whole concept of Hardin’s argument. Hardin also spoke in his essay using the repetition of the words "we" and "us" is a language factor that persuades the audience to accept Hardin’s ideas because it implicates that he and his audience is of equal status. Here, the ethics he reveals in his essay have good reasoning. Helping someone in need has always been a moral in someone’s life. But now, Hardin proposes a new ethic, "lifeboat ethics". Singer, on the other hand, often refers to the fact that nearly one-third of Americans spend their income on luxuries that they “desire” instead of donating the
In Garrett Hardin’s essay, Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor, Hardin describes the wealthy population of the world as being in a single lifeboat that is almost filled until buckling while the poor population of the world treads water below. Hardin’s essay gets his readers to feel the natural instinct to survive. The lifeboat metaphor that Hardin uses relieves the wealthy population of their moral obligations to the less fortunate, but in addition, puts all of the blame and cause of the depletion of earth’s resources on the poor. As much as his argument may make sense,
This is the scenario of the Lifeboat Ethics in which Hardin relates this lifeboat to the space ship Earth. It goes that the lifeboat is the wealth nations and the people in the water are the poor or unfortunate. All ethic beliefs have flaws and strong points, as you will see in the following explanations. The 5 ethical theories have a one or two examples explaining how someone would go about making this decision from the view of: Divine Command Theory, Egoism, Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, and Natural Law. All five have ethic believes do justice, but have flaws, and strong point. An ethic theory to solve a problem is good. Following
Many moral theories have been proposed to understanding our obligations and responding to the perceived injustices present in the world such as world hunger and world poverty, two of the most prominent of these theories are utilitarianism, and human rights. In her essay ‘Rights, Obligations, and World Hunger’, Onora O’Neill critically examines these theories and highlights their inadequacy towards understanding our obligations towards alleviating world poverty, then goes on to propose a third alternative theory to the aforementioned theories, which she believes is better suited. The theory she proposes is that of the Kantian ethical theory developed by 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant. This theory is indeed the best suited to understanding our obligations to alleviating world poverty. Before expounding on the Kantian theory that O’Neill proposes, and why it is the optimal approach for understanding our obligations to those suffering from world poverty, I will very briefly summarise the other two moral theories, and explain why O’Neill is correct in her assessment that they are inadequate to dealing with the problem at hand.
Hardin’s lifeboat analogy proposes an interesting situation. If a lifeboat with 50 people on board and a capacity of 60 floated past 100 other people in the water, who would we take, if anyone? If we tried to take everyone, the boat would capsize and everyone would either become stranded or die. It would lead to “complete justice, complete catastrophe” (Hardin 1). If we took no one, we would constantly have to stave off desperate people climbing on board and those who claim entitlement. If we decide to push our lifeboat to its limits, and add 10 more people, how would we choose who to take? What I gather from this is that there’s no truly correct solution. If we take everyone, we all die. If we take no one, we get shamed and blamed for leaving others behind. If we take a select few, we get called out as biased by those who weren’t selected.
Peter Singer, a prominent moral philosopher and public intellectual, has written at length about many ethical issues. He subscribes to utilitarianism, which is the position that the best moral action is that which maximizes the well-being of conscious entities; this view is made apparent through his writings. In his essay What Should a Billionaire Give—and What Should You? Singer presents the idea that although the rich are capable of mitigating extreme poverty, there has been little improvement for the poorest 10 percent of the world’s population. He maintains that all life is equal and, therefore, saving the lives of the poor is a moral imperative for those who can afford to. “We are far from acting in accordance to that belief,”
Garrett Hardin’s excerpt from “Lifeboat Ethics” first appeared in Psychology Today in September 1974. In this essay, there is a metaphor that rich and poor are very different. I strongly disagree with Hardin’s metaphor even though he is truthful about his beliefs. The metaphor is only being seen in one point of view, when there are multiple ways of looking at it.
Thus, the problem rests in the selfishness of affluent nations who do not distribute their grain to poor nations. By evenly distributing food, human suffering caused by absolute poverty could cease to exist. However, while both utilitarians promote selflessness as beneficial, they do so from different angles. Singer does not advocate unselfishness to increase our happiness, but because it is morally right. While Mill labels selfishness as the root of unhappiness in humans, Singer states instead that absolute poverty is “the principal cause of human misery” (Singer 220). Thus, Mill encourages unselfishness to end the suffering of the one who gives while Singer encourages it to end the suffering of the one who receives.
Since 1991, the southern half of Somalia, a poverty stricken African nation, has seen various tribal militias battle for dominance and power over individual regions of the country. Violence has plagued Mogadishu, the capital, since warlords ousted the former president. Mere months after the collapse of the government, men, women and children in torn clothes ran helplessly towards packages dropped from military planes towards the hot sand of their tiny village. This action was one of many attempts to help underdeveloped nations receive food by the United Nations' World Food Programme. Within his article titled "Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor", Garret Hardin, a well-known philosopher of ecology, analyzes the difficulty
In a perfect world there would be no hunger, no poverty, and no crime, but no such world will ever exist. There will always be suffering, hurt, anguish, and despair. Yet, shouldn’t we strive to provide a good future for all? This concept of the most amounts of good for the most amounts of people is call Utilitarianism. Contrary to popular belief, the United States doesn’t believe in such a state of being. Instead, through capitalism and economic globalization the United States has proven to believe in the exact opposite of utilitarianism.