Helping Weaker Nations in Famine, Affluence and Morality and Why Nations Fail
Peter Singer claims in Famine, Affluence and Morality that those who are comparatively well-off by global standards have a strong ethical duty to contribute a much larger proportion of their income than they currently do to global anti-poverty charities. In this paper, I argue this claim with an objection from Daren Acemoglu and James A. Robinson’s novel, Why Nations Fail, that weaker nations must shift their focus from extractive economic institutions to inclusive in order to stimulate growth in the society.
Singer starts his argument by referring to the poverty of nine million Bengali refugees, mostly as a result of their civil war. But his conclusion explains that it is up to people throughout the world to avoid such large-scale misery by providing support through anti-poverty charities. Not enough money has been donated to support agencies, nor did people put pressure on their governments to force them to provide more aid. His assumption that suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad to supports his point that if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it (Singer 231). Singer uses this point to urge that people who are wealthy by global standards should donate more and consider that an individual has the same duty to help those who are far away as those who are nearby.
In the book Why Nations Fail, Acemoglu and Robinson tackle the notion of extractive and inclusive institutions. Nations in poverty tend to have extractive economic intuitions that don’t give incentives to create value for the community, while inclusive systems provide an unbiased system of law and allow people to choose their own career paths. As stated in the book, “To be inclusive, economic institutions must feature secure private property, an unbiased system of law, and a provision of public services that provides a level playing field in which people can exchange and contract” (p. 144). Private ownership inspires citizens to achieve long term success. Providing food and shelter to citizens is necessary in nations struggling, but also providing individuals with the freedom of opportunity and equal distribution of resources can motivate the economy positively, thus driving a nation. Anti-poverty charities provide relief temporarily but influencing economic and political institutions can affect a nation positively for future generations.
This objection raised by Acemoglu and Robinson has a long-term focus on a nation rather than a short-term focus. Singer’s argument of wealthy individuals donating more to anti-charities provides nations with relief in the use of food, shelter, and medical care. A valid response that Singer could provide to the objection raised by Acemoglu and Robinson is that people are suffering from starvation and diseases and focusing on economic changes doesn’t provide reassurance for their current well-being. Shifting institutions from exclusive to inclusive can give hope for change in a nation struggling but does not offer the immediate relief to the citizens.
Singer has more of a short-term focus by contributing to the health of individuals but has little focus on the nations structure that could be shifted to assure more opportunity to the economy. Singer, Acemoglu, and Robinson all agree that nations struggling must be provided relief and opportunity. These writers have different beliefs on how this relief is provided; through antipoverty charities and changing economic institutions. The objection of shifting economic institutions succeeds in undermining Singers claim of the wealthy contributing more. Yes, people that are suffering must receive proper support quickly, but also focusing on the economy of the nation can help these people have hope for changes in the future. Singer may not reject the objection raised by Acemoglu and Robinson but will still emphasize the importance that the wealthy have the power to provide more to relief funds.
To conclude this argument, one must understand the effect of each writer’s relief mechanisms because each are necessary and vital to a struggling nation. Acemoglu and Robinson are accurate with their objection of economic institutions, but Singer’s notion of donating more to anti-poverty charities is justifiable as well. Singer should keep his focus on the struggling citizens in these nations but also consider of the future economic position of the nation.
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Peter Singer claims in Famine, Affluence and Morality that those who are comparatively well-off by global standards have a strong ethical duty to contribute a much larger proportion of their […]