In the article Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor, Garrett Hardin’s main argument is that we should not help the poor. The article starts by describing the difference between the spaceship ethic, which is where we should share resources because all needs and shares are equal, and the lifeboat ethic, we should not share our resources and using this ethic we should not help the poor. He argues because of limited resources, tragedy of commons and no true world government to control reproduction and use of available resources, we should govern our actions by the ethics of lifeboat.
The main argument is as follows: 1. If we have limited resources, then we should govern our actions by ethics of lifeboat and not share our resources. 2. We have limited resources. C3; We should govern our actions by ethics of lifeboat and not share our resources. 4. Since we should govern our actions by ethics of lifeboat and not share resources, the poor will suffer if we do not help them. 5. Lifeboat ethic advocates that we should not help the poor. C6; We should not help the poor. The above argument looks valid. So let us examine whether the premises are sound.
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In premise 1, this premise is argued for under ‘Adrift in a Moral Sea’. Assuming a lifeboat with an excess capacity of 10 more passengers, those in the boat should assess whether they should admit 10 more people to it if the excess capacity acts as a safety factor. Its argument is as follows: 1. If we have no one on the lifeboat, then we have safety factor. 2. If we have safety factor, then there will not be disastrous outcome. C3; If we have no one on the life boat, then there will not be disastrous outcome. C4; If we have no one on the life boat, then survival is possible. 5.
If survival is not possible by undermining the disastrous outcomes from the unforeseen circumstances with excess passengers, then the boat will sink. 6. If the boat sinks, then we should not aid the poor in the waters. C7; If survival is not possible by undermining the disastrous outcomes from the unforeseen circumstances with excess passengers, then we should not help the poor. 8. Survival may not be possible by undermining the disastrous outcomes from the unforeseen circumstances with excess passengers. C9; We should not help the poor. It follows that this sub-argument supports the main argument.
This argument is valid due to its argument form DS and MP. Indeed the ‘safety factor’ is an important factor on the lifeboat and if we were to admit more people on the boat, survival may not be possible. Therefore this sub-argument is sound. In ‘Population Control the Crude Way, it is reconstructed as follows: 1. If the poor can always draw on a World Food Bank in times of need, their population can continue to grow unchecked. 2. If population continues to grow unchecked, their need for aid will also increase. C3> If the poor can always draw on a World Food Bank in times of need, their need for aid will also increase. . If need for aid increases, the World Food Bank will have less resources. C5> If the poor can always draw on a World Food Bank in times of need, the World Food Bank will have fewer resources. C6> We should not help the poor. This sub-argument supports the main argument. The argument is valid. However, there is an assumption to premise (4) that the poor will take and give nothing in return, which is not true. As from the article, the poor will give by being cheap labor and there will be political gains between countries, hence resulting in a charity gain.
There is another assumption that giving more aid will increase more people, thus increasing the needs for more aid. But this may not be true. Once giving the poor the food, they can go look for a job rather than waiting for food. By looking for a job and earn money, they will be richer. If they are richer, they will require less need. Thus increasing the aid does not mean increasing the need for aid. In addition, Premise (1) may not be true such that when population is high, it will grow unchecked. It makes no sense that we know reproduction of rich is still lower than poor countries.
With the poor receiving more aid, they will become wealthier. When a country becomes wealthier, it does not mean that the state of reproduction will stay at same rate. Yet, reproduction of rich is still lower than poor countries. Therefore the higher rate in population does not equal to an increase in need for aid. The argument is unsound. In Immigration vs Food Supply, it is argued for: 1. Immigrants consist of the poor. 2. Immigration is supported. 3. If the primary interest to support unimpeded immigration is the desire of employers for cheap labor, we should close the door to immigrants. 4.
Foreigners were brought in to work at wretched job with wretched pay. C5> We should close the doors of immigrants. C6> We should not help the poor. Though the argument is valid, this argument does not really link back to the main argument. This argument talks about not helping the poor because of the poor conditions they’ll be in if immigration is not allowed. It does not talk about anything near to the lifeboat ethics. Moreover, the premises (3) and (4) in this argument have some flaws and seem to commit the fallacy of argument against the person by appeal to explanation. Premise (4) is questionable.
We do not really know whether foreigners or immigrants were cheap labor, working in a state of bad job conditions. Therefore this argument is unsound. In Premise 4, this premise is argued for under ‘Population control the Crude Way’. It argues that: 1. The proportion of people in rich and poor countries will stabilize and less poor will suffer only if we aid the poor through the system of food sharing. 2. The growth differential between the rich and poor countries continues to increase. C3; We should not aid the poor. In this sub-argument, it supports the main argument. The argument is valid as from the argument form.
Yet, this argument does not seem sound. (1) may not be true. Even with some system of food sharing or foreign-aid programs to the poor countries, the rate of population between the rich and poor countries still continue to increase, with a worse ratio each year. So if this premise is false, then this entire sub-argument becomes unsound. Under ‘Learning the Hard Way’, it says that even though we aid the poor, the poor will still suffer unless they learn from experience and mend their ways. In other words it means that the poor will not suffer only if they learn from experience and mend their ways.
Learning from experience and mending their ways means that poor countries should not be dependent on other countries to help them. Therefore for the poor not to suffer, we should not help them. This sub-argument supports the main conclusion. Yet this sub-argument seems to contradict with the Premise (4) in the main argument. Here the sub-argument says that ‘If we do not help the poor, they will benefit’ whereas in the Premise (4) of main argument, it says that ‘If we do not help the poor, they will suffer’. These two statements seem to contradict. If the sub-argument’s one is true, then Premise (4) of main argument is false.
If the premise of main argument is false, then the main argument is invalid. In conclusion, Hardin’s argument is invalid and unsound. His 1st premise is challenged to be untrue and is unsound by weaknesses and fallacies like argument against person by appeal to explanation. His 4th premise has been proven untrue and unsound. So most of the sub-arguments are rendered unsound though its first sub-argument of survival in the lifeboat is possible if we don’t help the poor is sound. Hence, the support for lifeboat ethics is not very strong to prove that we should not help the poor.