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Does the severity of global poverty make it wrong for us to buy luxuries rather than using the money to help the global poor?

Dissertation : Does the severity of global poverty make it wrong for us to buy luxuries rather than using the money to help the global poor?. Recherche parmi 299 000+ dissertations

Par   •  26 Novembre 2017  •  Dissertation  •  2 003 Mots (9 Pages)  •  1 022 Vues

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In this essay, I will discuss the question: does the severity of global poverty make it wrong for us to buy luxuries rather than using the money to help the global poor? This question implies the principles of luxuries, severe global poverty, individual contribution and/or aid, and morality.

Luxuries spendings are by definition spendings that are pricey, but also non-essential: they are not necessary for survival and are beyond comfort. People that can afford luxuries are people that can afford to fulfill their primary needs, and still spend some money on comfort goods, savings and then eventually luxuries. Overall they have a lot more money than what they strictly need to survive.

Asking if luxuries spending could be wrong and should be replaced by spendings to help the global poor implies the existence of a moral duty to help. This duty can be a justice duty (as paying taxes) or a humanitarian duty (as giving to charity). In this essay, we will focus on the humanitarian duty. As the question is about « us to buy luxuries », it is not about a moral duty for the rich states but for individuals to help and aid.

The formulation of the question also implies that global poverty is severe, and asks if this severity is enough to justify the moral duty to help. As a consequence, the supposed moral duty exists in the case of a severe poverty only and would be a duty toward the people living in a high poverty level.

Overall, to answer the question we have to determine if individuals have a moral duty to help to fight global poverty (because of its level), and if this duty makes morally wrong all unnecessary spendings made by people that are not helping to lower the global poverty.

In this essay I will do an overview of the arguments of the direct and relational cosmopolitans who studied the moral duty to help fighting poverty, presenting and comparing the consequentialist, egalitarian, and minimalist approach.

The most famous scholar that defend the idea of a moral duty to help is the cosmopolitan Peter Singer, who is also a consequentialist. In one of his book, « Famine, Affluence and Morality », published in he presented a theory according to which there is for the individuals a moral duty to help to fight against global poverty.

To arrive at this conclusion, he presents a universal principle according to which all individual should have access to primary necessities (water, food, medical assistance, a place to live, a minimum of hygiene...). No one should be deprived of theses necessities and the people that don’t have access to these primary necessities are in need and in danger of death.

This need being unacceptable, Singer states that all individuals that can help should do it, by donating to aid agencies all of the money they have left after they fulfilled their own primary needs. However, they don’t have to donate if it would mean for them to scarify their own primary needs (or something as morally important).

Singer illustrates his theory with the famous example of the drowning child. This example states that we have a moral ought to save a child drowning in front of us, even if it means that we will have to sacrifice our new shoes to do it. In this example, we sacrifice something (our shoes and outfit), but this think is not as morally important as the life of someone else.

For him, choosing not to save the child in order to preserve our new shoes is as morally wrong as not donating to aid agencies. Indeed, even if the poor people aren’t dying in front of us like in Singer’s example, we still are responsible for their death if we don’t help, because we had the material and financial capacities to do it. The fact that the child is located at the other side of the globe is morally no excuse. With that in mind, choosing to buy luxuries (unnecessary spending not as important as helping people fulfilling their primary necessities) instead of donating, is basically a failure to provide assistance to an endangered person to the same extent as letting a child drown in front of our eyes because we didn’t want to ruin our classy outfit (outfit that is unnecessary and not as important as saving a life).

Overall once individuals fulfilled their primary needs, any luxuries spending is considered by Singer as unnecessary and should be replaced by donations to fight the global poverty and to let all humans have access to primary necessities.

In his theory, he does not promote donations but introduces them as a duty. He considers that the donations are helping saving other people’s lives and that this is an important enough cause for people to have to donate. The donation is not an option of something to be congratulated for, it is something individuals are ought to do without any counter-party or even credit given. On the opposite, they are morally wrong if they don’t do donations and spend money on luxuries instead, and can be morally blamed for that.

Some scholars as Unger and O'Neil conclude their work on a very similar conclusion like Singer. Unger goes even further than Singer, not only saying that it is immoral not to donate, but also that people should try to improve their situation in order to be able to donate as much as possible. According to him, people should try to get better-paid jobs, or choose one job over another just because it is better-paid and would allow more donations. It is, following Unger argument’s, morally wrong to stay in a situation and donate if we could have a better situation and donate more.

O'Neil, comparing the situation with a lifeboat in which you have to choose between keeping the food and water for you and you friends (and then you will have more than enough of food and water), or sharing them with starving people that are also in the boat and will die if nothing is given to them (and you will still have enough supplies). For O'Neil, it is immoral not to share the supplies you


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