Lifeboat: Developing Country and Hardin

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Critically examine Hardin’s lifeboat analogy:

Garret Hardin’s work, Living on a Lifeboat, is a controversial piece of writing. His callous nature of ethics has won him a large number of critics since it was published in 1974. His renowned lifeboat analogy evokes a range of reactions from readers. Although controversial, Hardin’s line of thought cannot be ignored. I do not agree with all of his reasoning, however, there is no doubting the fact that Hardin tackles issues that must be addressed. Population is a major force affecting famine in the world; I am in full support of Hardin when he urges that this must be addressed. My opinion differs in the fact that I do not believe that foreign aid shouldn’t be given. Hardin’s lifeboats carrying capacities are not as simplistic as Hardin portrays them to be.

In order to examine the analogy of Hardin, it must be first outlined. In ‘Living on a Lifeboat’, Hardin likens the world to a lifeboat situation, whereby, the developed world is a series of lifeboats floating in a sea full of wading or drowning people of the developing world. Naturally, the developing nations are seeking assistance, in this case getting aboard the boats. These lifeboats, symbolic of the limited space and resources available in these developed countries, provides the reader with a clear image of the problem at hand. If the developed nations allow everyone aboard, in Hardin’s words “the boat is swamped and everyone drowns. Complete justice, complete catastrophe” (Hardin, 1974: 562). If the developed nations allow a select few aboard, until the boat is at capacity, however now there is no ‘safety factor’. The boat is now at a far high risk of suffering from wide spread disease or fatal effects of a natural disaster. The third scenario given by Hardin is for the developed nations to do nothing, ensuring maximum chance of survival for all aboard (Hardin, 1974).

Hardin’s analogy, more or less, is an improved version of Kenneth Boulding’s...
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