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According to Singer in the “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” if a person suffers from the risk of lacking essential commodities such as medical care, food or shelter, then such a person is destitute especially if the person suffers from the situations due to natural disasters or war (Singer, 5). In such a situation, there is a need for humanitarian aid, since it is not morally right for any a person to die out of destitution. According to Singer (50), the way people who are relatively affluent react to a destitute situation is not justifiable. Human moral conception is therefore not right and requires a revolution since people take life for granted (Singer, 50). Singer, therefore, concludes that for instance, deaths by starvation are morally wrong and while people have the power to prevent such wrongs from happening, few are obliged to assist.
Assisting disadvantaged situations like cases where people lack food, shelter or medical needs is a morally right because it is incomparable to sacrificing support for other personal needs or considering support of other moral obligations. Singer (51) therefore argues that assistance on basic provisions is thus the most basic human moral obligation and consequently every affluent person ought to participate in aiding such needs. It is arguably a moral obligation for everyone to participate in assisting such needy situations because this does not sacrifice anything else comparable to such needs (Singer, 51). Helping the needy in society is a way of preventing the bad or worse from happening, which requires participants input, without compromising another comparably important situation, from a moral perspective. If the social situation were that everyone felt free to participate in assisting the bad from happening, then in it would be a moral obligation for everyone to ensure that human life, society, and the global settings fundamentally transform to better living standards.
Contrary to Singer’s argument, Richard Arneson’s view in “Moral Limits on the Demands of Beneficence?” about molarity depicts a divergent view that Singer’s analysis is a conflict to socially prevailing standards of charity since charity is supererogatory (Arneson, 5). In this counterargument, charity is not an obligation or a duty for all or most affluent to undertake. There is a need to rethink the perception about charity since Singer’s argument requires people to undertake great tasks for others especially on the provision of basic needs. Although morality is a traditional requirement that people ought to assist those in need, the divergent view/argument is that relief is a short-term measure undertaken to delay possible additional problems perhaps.
Humanitarian relief requires additional control measures since a small percentage of relief in support of current famine rarely changes the status quo. Perhaps it permits emergence for advocacy to increase relief with the aim of eliminating destitution (Arneson, 1). This raises concerns of how far relief can settle needs of a consuming society. Anticipating a 1% relief from every effluent in society is logical, but advocating for a 25% of them is far too demanding, to the point of arguably compromising other moral obligations.
Arguing against Arneson’s portrayal of human moral obligation, there is a need for individuals and groups to form a habit of giving humanitarian aid to as many destitute as possible. In the long run, if everyone sacrificed part of their luxury or spends less on their resources and instead directed the resources to assist the needy in society, then the destitute situation would ease, and only destitution emerging from disastrous situations would require immediate assistance. Managing such emergencies (natural calamities and war) that can lead to destitution would be possible due to the destitution management strategies that governments or individuals put in place to combat such occurrences. Therefore the most effective way of managing destitution is by offering the highest humanitarian support possible or establishing a continual support programme for destitute cases as a measure of curbing poverty, instead of perceiving the adverse outcome that continual aid would cause in society.
Singer does not merely support or recommend more provision for the poor or the destitute but presents a moral obligation that people should give charitably, with the connotation that generosity is an aid advocated as a duty (Singer, 15), and therefore failing to give more is morally wrong. It is thus crucial that people improve from just generously donating to charity work, by substantially increasing the frequency and the amount donated. The principle of preventing bad occurrences from happening requires that one should generously give the maximum amount that can reduce their status to a marginal utility (the level of becoming destitute in case of further donation). The principle of preventing bad occurrences as presented by Singer indicates that being destitute is, therefore, an unfortunate situation that should be prevented by all means possible, without causing another impecunious condition (Singer, 17).
If an individual is able to assist fewer than the maximum number of people they are capable of assisting without generating a new destitute situation or foregoing a good compensating situation, then there is a violation of the principle of preventing bad occurrences (Sine, 9-11). The same violation occurs if a person/government assists others in a less effective way than they should. This is on the reasoning that every person has the capacity to assist more destitute people and prevent other sufferings or deaths. When compensation occurs partially or inefficiently than one’s ability, then there is an ineffective utilization of resources, which could have assisted in preventing other destitute situations or create better conditions.
In support of the moderation prevention concept, Spring went further to provide a moderate version of the principle of preventing bad occurrences by indicating that the government or an individual ought to avert bad incidents from happening when they are in a position to do so “without sacrificing anything morally significant” (Singer, 6). The concept seems directed to the government of the day, over its role of the provision to its citizens, but it is a universal role where developed countries assist developing ones and even poor countries aid poorer nations or individuals. The scarcity of resources, therefore, does not prevent people, corporates or the state from assisting in destitute cases, especially disastrous situations.
Singer’s principle (Singer, 7-9) does not distinguish between occurrences that are close to those that occur within far geographical ends. People feel less inclined to help those who are far than those close to them, but lack of physical and personal contact should not determine measures to provide assistance. The modern form of communication and technological advancement has made prevention measures easy to administer. For instance, in case of disastrous occurrences, people are able to send monetary assistance through wire transfer methods. Goodness or wickedness of a social setting also depends and reflects suffering in the entire universe. Considering the option to assist the destitute is purely a personal moral obligation but deciding the extent of assistance is a matter that is scholarly debatable considering needs and wastage of resources.
The moral principle to assist others cannot be determined or influenced by the response others offer the situation in hand. When others contribute less than they ought to offer, the contribution impulse is affected since one feels less inclined to assist in the best way possible. Therefore, one’s moral behavior either positively or negatively influences another’s. The entire aspect (moral principle) of helping others is to provide social functionality. However, it is not supererogatory to assist beyond the social setting since assistance follows the standard argument of utilitarianism, where suffering experienced by a person within a particular society is equal to that of a destitute person in another setting.
The question that would arise from Singer’s argument is whether one ought to give to appoint of reaching the “marginal utility” level. The logical observation would be to avoid reaching the level, but it is equally important to observe how much others give. If everyone including the government gave enough share/contribution to eradicating destitution from basic needs such as food, shelter or health, then the burden of easing destitute situations in society would be modest. Resources allocated to alleviate such destitution by for instance the government is often too little, such that the burden befalls individuals, who are thus obligated to offer more assistance and at times reduce their reserve status to marginal utility level.
The situation of draining resources to the marginal utility levels is comparable to Singer’s argument that it is morally wrong not to assist people in need of basic requirements such as food, shelter, clothing or medicine. This is in cognition that everyone has the power to prevent something terrible around them from happening without sacrificing something that is of greater moral importance. Based on Stinger’s argument, assistance does not reflect on monetary and material aid only. For instance, rescuing a child from drowning only ruins the rescuer’s clothing. It is thus a sacrifice worth undertaking since it does not sacrifice anything of greater moral significance (ruined clothes) in comparable the prevented occurrence (death by drowning). This means that people ought to give as much as they can afford, more than the current situation indicates.
It is therefore important to concur with Singer’s principle of preventing bad occurrences which indicate that a government or an individual ought to prevent a bad occurrence if the unfortunate situation cannot compromise another worse occurrence or sacrifice something good enough to completely offset the bad incident (Singer, 5-6). Preventing/offsetting a bad occurrence should therefore not create another bad or worse circumstance or else cause someone to forfeit a compensating good. Consequently, an offered humanitarian aid ought not to create another needy or worse scenario.
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