Moral Considerations The Affluent and the Impoverished

One of the most ancient struggles of all time is the struggle between financially rich and poor, the economically wealthier members of society as opposed to the poorer members.  This dichotomy can oftentimes be extreme and exists on a smaller level, such as between members of families or small communities, as well as on a greater level, such as between members of various countries and world societies.  Researchers vary in their descriptions about what it means for some groups of people to be affluent and for some groups of people to be impoverished.  However, it is usually the case that people take a moral stand in support of rectifying the situation by one means or another.  Singer claims that people who live in absolutely affluent societies have a moral obligation to charitably help those who live in absolute poverty (Soifer, 1997).  From Singers perspective, rich people have a moral obligation to give monetary help to the poor, and that allowing for scourges like starvation is comparable to allowing for murder.  In thinking about Singers point of view which upholds the need for charity, it is important to analyze the dynamic between affluence and poverty and to take into account the perspectives of other researchers such as Narveson, who contends that it is not enough to give financial support to the poor through charity, but rather finds it important to truly support ones neighbor through the justice of fair trade (Narveson, 2002).

Being an absolutely affluent person or society in relation to an absolutely impoverished person or society means that there is a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of the affluent to provide charitable monetary help to the impoverished.  The act of charity is sometimes taken by the affluent person in a personal way, as an individual decision, and it is sometimes taken in a governmental way, such as through taxation in support of the poor.  The basic idea of charity as explained by Singer is the act of giving away the excess luxury accumulated by the wealthy in support of providing for the basic sustenance and needs of the poor (Soifer, 1997).  Charity identifies the excesses of the affluent members of society and invokes a moral necessity to give these excesses away to people who are without basic needs.  The survival of the poor, from the perspective of charity, is directly related to the whether or not the affluent person or society makes the decision to give away their possessions in the aim to help support the poor.  From the point of view of the person or society involved in giving monetary support in charitable form, the owner or the possessor is the wealthy person, and the receiver of the gift is the poor person.  This view is directly connected to the idea that it is alright for some people to have more than others, so long as the wealthy recognize their duty to give alms through personal decision, religious based tithing, or governmentally supported taxation.

On the other hand, one can claim that being an absolutely affluent person or society in relation to an absolutely impoverished person or society means that there is a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of every member of society to put into place a system of justice which prevents people from becoming either wealthy or poor.  From the point of view of researchers like Narveson, the moral obligation of society is to collectively decide that no one should be extremely wealthy or poor and make conscious decisions in the promotion of fair trade and compensation (2002).  It is common around the world today for the elite members of society to unflinchingly add to their incomes by implementation of extravagant salaries and bonuses and to ignore the needs of the general population.  Aiming to restrict people from becoming absolutely affluent and restrict people from becoming absolutely impoverished is the basic idea of a working justice system.  Narveson contends that it is not enough for the wealthy to give to the poor through acts of charity, rather it is important for the entire society to be fair and balanced in the trade of services and compensation (2002).  One of the most important characteristics of a just society is that it is illegal, through the actions of the democratic government, for people to engage in unfair trade and compensation.  On a very basic level, it would be illegal for a person to trade a service such as gardening without being paid on a level comparable to other people in society.  For example, instead of a gardener being paid 10 per hour and a physician being paid 200 per hour, the trade would be fairer, with a gardener being paid perhaps 40 per hour and the doctor being paid 100.

In deliberating between the morality of charity as opposed to the morality of justice, it is safe to say that justice is ideal and charity is important.  The world as it is today is so rife with imbalance in regard to trade, that, globally speaking, humanity is a far cry away from justice.  However, it is certainly important to keep justice in mind as a goal and the ultimate solution to the problem of absolute affluence and absolute poverty.  While charity helps in the meantime to alleviate the ills of the poor, charity does not solve the ultimate problem of the extremism between rich and poor.  It is only through justice and the balance which springs through fair trade and compensation that societies are able to live together in peace and prosperity.  The most fragile and tumultuous societies, those rife with warfare and poverty, are the ones in which the dichotomy between rich and poor is the most severe and unhealthy.  By making it a point to create a prosperous middle class, societies around the world can be comfortable in knowing that they are able to create paradise through acts of justice.


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