AOH :: HUNGER.TXT|
Is there an obligation to provide for others?
Is there an obligation to provide for others?
The history of mankind has always seen one group of people worse
off than another. Is there a moral duty to provide for those that
have less than yourself?
By looking at problem of the world's hungry, we can examine this
First we must distinguish between people starving and people being
starved. The verb starve is both a passive and an active verb, the
former designates something that happens to someone, and the latter
designates something inflicted by one person on another.
In the case of one person starving another by deliberately
withholding food, the wrongness is easily apparent. For this is
deliberate murder as would be the case of shooting the person.
In the case where the problem results from crop failure, drought or
other natural conditions, the answer is not that simple. There is
no obvious guilty party as in the first case.
Is letting someone die the moral equivalent of killing them? Some
writers would have us believe that this is so. I would say not.
This calls in to question the distinction between justice and
Justice, in this sense, is those things which we may be forced to
do. Charity is a desire to benefit others because they need it.
The difference to the libertarian is that Justice is something that
you are compelled by the state or community to do, while charity is
something that is given freely and voluntarily.
The question of whether feeding the hungry of the world should be a
question of justice or one of charity is a moral issue and one that
is important to the libertarian.
There also arises a different view that says that it is positively
wrong to feed the hungry. Writers, such as Garret Hardin, think
that feeding the hungry is misguided charity. By feeding the hungry
we create a larger problem in the future. For by feeding the hungry
now, we will be allowing them to enlarge their population, thus
when the next crop failure occurs, there will be even more people
starving than there is today.
This brings up another distinction: the difference between
principles and policies.
If you are in favour of feeding the hungry as a matter of
principle, does that mean that your policy is to always feed the
hungry, no matter what the facts are in each case.
Let us use the example of Country E, where the starvation of
hundreds of thousands is caused by government in an attempt to
starve out a civil war. If your principles say that you should feed
the hungry, and the government of E won't let you send food to the
hungry; is it worth going to war in order to get food to the
To return to our question of justice or charity, let us examine the
difference of starving and allowing to starve. Are they the same?
I would argue that they are not. If you intentionally withhold food
from someone, you are depriving them of something that they
normally would have received. If however, someone starves because
they didn't grow enough food, you are not responsible for their
misfortune. If you did not exist, they would still have not grown
enough food and would still be starving. How can you be said to be
repsonsible for something that would have occurred even if you had
If you take the position that we have a duty of justice to feed the
poor, I would argue, if this be the case, that no one should engage
in a career such as art or music, as that person is shirking their
duty to grow and provide food for the hungry. This is obviously
ridiculous, because there will always be hunger somewhere in the
world. Somewhere there will always be a crop failure.
Would the proponents of the duty of justice argument say that Karen
Kain, the ballerina, should have forsaken her career in ballet and
taken up the hoe, in an attempt to feed the hungry?
Advocates of welfarism talk as if there were a single point of
view (welfare) that dominates everything else.
Not so. As pointed out by Narveson, "there are all kinds of points
of view, diverse, and to a large extend incommensurable".
"It is not certain, not obvious, that we `add more to the sum of
human happiness" by supporting Oxfam than by supporting the
opera'". (Narveson, Moral Matters)
Should the state then intervene and force the citizens to feed the
hungry of the world. I would argue no. The state should let each
citizen decide for himself whether he wishes to engage in charity.
For if someone is disadvantaged, we may pity them or we may be
indifferent. The question, so far as our obligations are
concerned, is this: Did our actions in the past cause his
situation? If so, such as my factory deposited salts onto his
farmland rendering it barren, then I have an obligation to make
restitution for the damage. Whether that restitution be in the form
of soil renewal or in my supplying him with food, is up to the the
injured party and myself to work out. If however, the situation
results from him establishing his farm on marginal land and poorly
farming it, thus causing the soil to become barren then I would
argue that I have no obligation to provide aid. I may feel moved to
assist him, but there is no duty.
--- Maximus 2.02
* Origin: Rational Anarchist (905)646-8229 Claslibnet HQ (350:2/100)
Ä %CLIB-PHILOSPHY (350:50/110) ÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄ %CLIB-PHILOSPHY Ä
Msg : 49 of 100
From : Lazarus Long 350:2/100 02 Jul 95 13:52:00
To : All 02 Jul 95 18:58:56
Subj : Charity 2
....continued from part 1
In contrast to the previous liberty-respecting view is the "Hair
This view suggests that we should count the satisfaction of others
as being equal in value to our own. According to this view, if I
can create more pleasure for someone by spending my money on him
than I would create for myself if I had spent the same money on my
own pleasure, then I would be obligated to spend the money on the
Under this way of thinking, one should continually defer to others
until one is as poor as those whose suffering you are supposed to
This deferral is, according to the social welfarist, preferable to
the imagined guilt that one should carry around for simply be more
fortunate than another.
This is the Marxist line of thinking at its simplest. Of course, in
practical application of marxism, the marxists don't wait for you
to voluntarily give to the less fortunate, they simply take from
the haves and redistribute to the have-nots.
A more practical and liberty-minded method of dealing with charity
is the concept of mutual aid. Which would see people voluntarily
giving in times of need, with a reasonable expectation that this
charity would be a short term thing and that the aid may be
reciprocated in the future( although this may never come to pass).
Charity should never be allowed to become dependency, for
dependency is a loss of liberty for both parties.
File as hunger.txt
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