A Review on Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor

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A Review on Lifeboat ethics: the case against helping the poor

Lifeboat ethics: the case against helping the poor is a famous essay written by Garret Hardin, a human ecologist in 1974. This article aims to re-examine the lifeboat ethics which was developed by the author to support his controversial proposal.

In the theory, the world is compared to a lifeboat with a carrying capacity of 60. There are totally 50 people on board, representing comparatively rich nations, while the 100 others swimming in the ocean outside the lifeboat stands for the poor nations. To solve the dilemma of whether the swimmers should be allowed to climb aboard at the risk of lifeboat’s safety, Hardin suggested that no admission should be granted to boat, or to interpret it in a straight way, no humanitarian aids should be offered to the poor countries.

Regardless of the additional factors which the author took into consideration from the real world in the essay, in my opinion, the basic metaphor itself is questionable.

Firstly, the status of the lifeboat is not an accurate reflection of reality. Arguably, natural resources of the earth are finite, however, this does not equal to the scarcity of resources in the control of the rich nations. On the contrary, nowadays in the developed countries, what the rich have used is out of proportion to their actual needs, which not only leads to colossal waste each year but also creates disposal problems. A familiar example is the popularity of losing weight among the western world, which is not solely a way of pursing beauty but also a clear indication of the growing number of obese people who consume food excessively. In contrast, in the third world especially poverty-stricken nations like Ethiopia, millions of people are filled with untold suffering. They drag themselves on the street from day to day, begging for only a slice of stale bread. Due to the unfair distribution of resources caused by the affluent people’s favorable political...
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