The Ethics Behind Resource Distribution for Those Living in Poverty and Rich


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Does morality and ethics come into play when dealing with the game of economics? In his article, Hardin makes the case against helping the poor and immigrants, including the benefits and repercussions that come with it by using an analogy stating “In the ocean outside each lifeboat swim the poor of the world, who would like to get in, or at least share some of the wealth. What should the lifeboat passengers do?” (Stiglitz 1). I once saw a poor person sitting down begging for money, I felt morally obliged to help him, and I did. I gave him 10 dollars and I felt good when I gave him the money, but what I saw after was horrifying. After I have the money to him, he walked up and when to a drug store and purchased cigarettes and beer with the 10 dollars I gave him. I was overwhelmed with what I just saw and couldn’t justify my actions. Did I do the right by giving him money?

Why did I feel morally obliged to help the man even though he used the money to buy unnecessary items that won’t help him? This exact situation made me think that a high use of morals should not be used in economics, and with Hardin, he uses hypothetical situations and real situations that if we continue to help poor people on large scales, in doing so would be negative, creating large scale disasters in return. That is the problem with considering morals with economics, if we help poor people all the time, there will be large repercussions, but if we do not help them, we are considered “immoral” and get shamed for not helping them. Nobel-winning economist Angus Deaton argues against giving continuous aid to poor countries by stating facts and statistics that show that in trying to help those poor countries, we are instead hurting them greatly. Because of our moral beliefs and what we think is right, we give to people who need it and don’t realize the repercussions that can happen in doing so, such as running out of resources ourselves, overpopulation consuming our land, and weakening a government’s relationship with its people by providing foreign aid.

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We will eventually run out of resources if we keep giving and giving to people in need. In recent years, a “World Food Bank” has been created as an “international depository of food reserves to which nations would contribute according to their abilities and from which they would draw according to their needs” (Hardin 3). This proposal indeed appeals to our humanitarian impulses and our moral beliefs, but those ideals blind us from such reality. With these ideals “guiding” us, we fail to see what repercussions come with this world food bank, such as if this program could do more harm than good than intended to, including what could happen in the long run. There are alternate feelings born out of these food banks, hope and anguish. Hope comes from the understanding that the world food bank is motivated by desire to help humans get one of the most important necessity in life, which is food. But despair comes because this proposal does not really solve the problem to world hunger at all.

This isn’t really a bank, it’s a give-and-take game. The rich give, and the poor take, it’s essentially a transfer system, and we gain nothing economically from it besides that “we did the right thing”. Hardin also makes the case that the world food bank was meant for food to be taken if there was an emergency or crisis, but what exactly is considered an emergency or crisis? How often does it happen? If we keep providing food for “emergencies” every day at an increasing rate, we will eventually deplete of resources fully. An ancient Chinese proverb states “Give a man and he will eat for a day; teach him how to fish and he will eat for the rest of his days” (Hardin 5). This proverb is fundamentally saying that it is better to think in the long run instead of in the moment. We should learn how to develop technology and think of ways to provide for ourselves instead of depending on someone else to give it to us. Instead of focusing on temporarily trying to fix poverty by creating food banks, we need to focus on long run programs to help provide jobs faster, tackle poverty head on, and initiate social programs that will benefit poor people without any side effects of running out of our own resources.

Overpopulation is also a key problem when considering doing the right and moral thing. Hardin states that “The people inside the lifeboats are doubling in numbers every 87 years; those swimming around outside are doubling, on the average, every 35 years, more than twice as fast as the rich. And since the world’s resources are dwindling, the difference in prosperity between the rich and the poor can only increase” (Hardin 2). This is an analogy that is essentially stating that poor nations reproduce faster than the rich nations, but is it necessary for the rich to support them when they keep reproducing at an increasing rate without thinking of the repercussions? Hardin uses another analogy to help his point get across by stating “A farmer for instance, will allow no more cattle in a pasture than its carrying capacity justifies. If he overloads it, erosion sets in, weeds take over, and he loses the use of the pasture” (Hardin 2). This analogy is chiefly explaining that there is a reason that overpopulation isn’t an ideal situation to be in.

Take a real-life situation that is happening right now, immigrants. The only reason that countries allow immigration to proceed is because of cheap labor, “particularly in industries and trades that offer degrading work” (Hardin 6). If we allow a generous number of immigrants to come in just because of cheap labor, overpopulation will take over and sustainability of resources will be no more. If resources become a commons to all people, the responsibility for everyone to take care of that resource may not be as well matched as the right for everyone to use it, eventually causing everyone to suffer from depleted resources. The result of equal access given to everybody including immigrants is always harmful when it comes to shared resources. The overload on the environment also needs to to be considered, “Every human born constitutes a draft on all aspects of the environment: food, air, water, forests, beaches, wildlife, scenery, and solitude” (Hardin 5). The more people born in a specific area, the more destroyed the environment will become. If we focus on our increased demand of food, that would mean other resources would need to be depleted by a great deal. This isn’t really ethical because in the long run, our children will have to suffer with little resources just because we wanted to reduce the suffering now, which is absolutely absurd.

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