Lifeboat Ethics

Topics: Wealth, Tragedy of the commons, Poverty Pages: 2 (742 words) Published: March 25, 2012
Lifeboat Ethics
Life is like a cruise ship… or at least until the engine blows up and your oasis of luxury sinks. Before you know it, you find yourself sitting in one of the few lifeboats, surrounded by hundreds of people who are now accurately portraying survival of the fittest. They are treading water and fearing sharks, all because there are not enough rafts. You are grateful to be in your lifeboat and eventually question if everyone on this earth has an equal right to an equal share in its resources (Hardin 1). Well, if you were not wondering about that, Garrett Hardin was. In his essay “Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor”, Hardin compares the condition of wealthy nations to that of a lifeboat. Hardin’s main idea is that wealthy nations should not offer any kind of assistance or support to people in poor countries because the outcome in doing so would be a catastrophe. Although Hardin’s ideas accurately state the problems of over-population and supporting the poor, he fails to defend his logic by not stating a satisfying compromise between the two extremes of giving all of our resources to the poor and not helping the poor at all.

He uses a lifeboat example to show the segregation to show the segregation of the rich people in the boat and the poor people swimming in the surrounding water. Natural instinct is to take in as many poor people as possible even if the raft lacks space, but Hardin argues that the

result would be a sinking raft and a disaster. There would be no positive result. If rich people pull poor people in the raft, the raft would then lose its “safety factor”. In the end, there would be no positive outcome in helping the swimmers and the result would be “complete justice, complete catastrophe” (Hardin 1).

“In a crowded world of less than perfect human beings, mutual ruin is inevitable if there are no controls. This is the tragedy of the commons” (Hardin 3). The tragedy of the commons is a perfect...

Citations: * Hardin, Garrett. “Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor.” September, 1974.
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