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A Study On Sharing The Wealth Philosophy Essay

2182 words (9 pages) Essay in Philosophy

5/12/16 Philosophy Reference this

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There are many people in the world who are currently living in horrible conditions that include malnutrition, hunger, and polluted drinking water. While these people are living in such horrible conditions, I am living a comfortable life and have a habit of taking advantage of certain luxuries that are available to me, but not to someone living in such unfortunate conditions. If a global tax was instated in an attempt to end hunger by contributing a mere one dollar a week, then I would be more than willing to support this movement. There are some others who would agree to and support this tax, but there are also some who disagree with this tax. Different individuals who would have varying opinions on this idea for a global tax are Thomas Pogge, John McMillian, Peter Singer, and Garrett Hardin.

Thomas Pogge, as shown in his essay, “World Poverty and Human Rights,” would seem to agree with the notion of a global tax to help aid those in need. He writes that we have duties, “not to expose people to life-threatening poverty and duties to shield them from harms for which we would be actively responsible” (Pogge 319). In other words, he believes that those who live in wealthier nations should not allow other people to fall to illnesses if they can afford not to. This would include leaving people to just starve when one can contribute a small portion of our funds to them. Pogge also discusses the topic of how richer countries, such as the United States, strip these poorer areas of their own natural resources. He does mention that these countries to pay for it, but there is a problem with this payment. “The payments we make for resource imports go to the rulers of the resource-rich countries, with no concern about whether they are democratically elected or at least minimally attentive to the needs to the people they rule” (Pogge 320). Although the richer nations may be paying for the resources they take away, they are paying to leaders who may not share this payment fairly with those that they rule. With this idea in mind, perhaps Pogge would be even more supportive of this global tax if it could be guaranteed that the funds from the tax would be placed in the correct hands and those who need it will actually receive it.

Peter Singer is another person who would agree to this notion of a global tax– to an extent. In his essay, “World Poverty and Hunger,” he states that, “I (Singer) begin with the assumption that suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad” (Singer 332). It would be an obvious conclusion to come to from this that he would agree that everyone (who can afford to do so) contributing something to people who are suffering from those things would be a good thing. This is ratified when he states that, “if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, with-out thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it” (Singer 332). Again, this would lead to the conclusion that he would be in favor of this tax.

Although evidence would support that he would be in favor of the global tax, his argument soon gets more complex than that:

“If everyone in circumstances like mine were to give £5, I would have no obligation to give more than £5. If the conclusion were so stated, however, it would be obvious that the argument has no bearing on a situation in which it is not the case that everyone else gives £5” (Singer 333).

In other words, the wording of that statement means that not everyone would be obligated to give that amount of money. “Therefore, by giving more than £5 I will prevent more suffering than I would if I gave just £5” (Singer 333). Although this is more of a real-world situation, there is evidence in these statements to come to the conclusion that Singer would redefine this global tax. Instead of everyone being taxed one dollar, everyone should instead give as much as they can to limit even more suffering. He continues to say, “it follows that I and everyone else in similar circumstances ought to give as much as possible, that is, at least up tot he point at which by giving more one would begin to cause serious suffering for oneself and one’s dependents” (Singer 333). He would suggest that everyone who can should give as much as they can without causing suffering on themselves. However, despite the idea that Singer would prefer people to give as much as they possibly can, he would still be in favor of the global tax as it is. As he says, “At the very least, though, one can make a start” (Signer 338). It is better to give something than nothing at all.

Although there are those who agree with the notion of a global tax, there are also those who would not approve of this idea. One such person in John McMillan. In his essay, “Antipoverty Wars” he blatantly states that, “Global poverty cannot be eliminated by sharing the wealth” (McMillan 323). The global tax in question would be an example of this idea of ‘sharing the wealth’ as McMillan puts it. Instead he believes that, “The only real solution therefore, is economic growth, to expand the world’s total resources” (McMillan 324). By growth, he means “an increase in a nation’s income” (McMillan 324). Something in this argument that cannot be ignored is the reasons he gives for the potential failure of redistributing the wealth to those in need.

“Let us do some hypothetical arithmetic. Imagine that the wealth of the millionaires is confiscated and distributed to everyone earning less than $2 per day. Dividing $25 trillion among 2.8 billion people would give $9,000 to each. (…) It would be infeasible for many reasons, one of which is that taxing income at 100 percent would squash any incentive to earn it” (McMillan 323).

In this, McMillan states that even though it would give a substantial amount to those in need, it would not bode well to take all of the wealth that millionaires make. With the global tax in question, it would only require everyone to be taxed one dollar, not the entirety of a millionaire’s wealth like McMillan mentioned. Despite this, McMillan still states that he believes that economic growth is what should be focused on to increase the wealth in a country. Therefore it can be assumed that he would not agree to the idea of a global tax in favor for economic growth instead.

In his essay, “Living on a Lifeboat,” Garrett Hardin is another individual who, like McMillan, would not agree that this global tax is a good idea. He writes this essay with the idea in mind of the lifeboat metaphor. He explains this metaphor as such,

“Metaphorically, each rich nation amounts to a lifeboat full of comparatively rich people. The poor of the world are in other, much more crowded, lifeboats. Continuously, so to speak, the poor fall out of their lifeboats and swim for a while in the water outside, hoping to be admitted to a rich lifeboat, or in some other way to benefit from the “goodies” on board” (Hardin 340).

In other words, the rich nations are separate from, and in better conditions than, the poorer nations. The poorer nations have overflowed and are now in the water and need a boat to get on in order to live. The decision now is whether or not to allow them onto our (the richer nation’s) lifeboat. Hardin believes that nobody should be allowed onto the lifeboat for many metaphorical reasons, and then backs them up with real-world reasons. The closest example that would align to this notion of a global tax would be the “international food bank.” One of his issues with this idea is that,

“the concepts of blame and punishment are irrelevant. The question is, what are the operational consequences of establishing a world food back? If it is open to every country every time a need develops, slovenly rulers will not be motivated (…). Others will bail them out whenever they are in trouble” (Hardin 343).

In other words, the leaders of these countries that are receiving aid will not be motivated to prepare for bad times or to help themselves. They will just become, essentially, lazy and not do anything to help themselves. They will become reliant on other countries to bail them out. “The most anguishing problems are created by poor countries that are governed by rulers insufficiently wise and powerful” (Hardin 344). Here is where Hardin claims that the rulers are not capable of properly leading these poorer countries and that is why they are not doing so well. To relate these ideas to the global tax would be to say that, since these countries are receiving aid now, they do not have to worry about what will happen later because they will become accustomed to thinking that they will always receive that aid when they believe it is necessary. The one dollar that everyone donates could help them get out of poverty, but it would not help them to stay out of it.

My personal response to this global tax is a positive one. Despite Hardin and McMillan’s possible views on the idea, I still believe it would ultimately benefit poorer nations and lead to positive results. The biggest incentive for agreeing with this notion for a global tax is very simple: it is easily affordable. It would not involve drastic cuts from a paycheck that leaves one without money for the things that are necessary for them to live in a day to day society. If everyone contributed one dollar a week, it would not add up for each person individually. This idea aligns up with Singer’s argument. Since I have money to spare and can give without taking away from any necessities that I have, I should be willing to donate it to those who need it. Even though McMillan makes the argument that sharing the global wealth would not help these nations, I disagree. I disagree because of his proposal that economic growth is the key to a nation’s success. As both Pogge and Hardin point out, the leaders of these poorer countries are not always the most well suited or fair. Pogge states that the wealth that the economic leaders would get are not being shared with the rest of the nation. Hardin states that getting this aid would not encourage the leaders to start becoming dependent on their own land. This would lead to economic growth being very difficult. Also, as Pogge does mention, richer countries are coming and either buying or stripping a country of it’s natural resources. There resources are possible necessities that these poorer nations may need in order to actually grow.

Another issue that prevents me to subscribing to McMillan’s theory is his example as to why spreading the global wealth is bad. The first is that it is purely based on the idea of completely taking away a millionaire’s profit for a year. In our example of a global tax, one dollar a week will hardly scratch the surface of a millionaire’s profit, and it would still provide positive results to those in need. McMillan’s theory also requires that this spreading of global wealth is only in place for one year. This global tax would be in place for longer than that one year. This means that it would have more of a chance of being effective and collecting more for those in need.

Pogge brings up the point that not when richer countries purchase land or goods from the leaders of poorer countries, the wealth is not always distributed to the people. This is why I believe that the money that is taken from the global tax should be carefully moderated to ensure that it gets placed into the right hands. For this reason, I disagree with Hardin’s logic. Although the leaders may not always be the best suited, the money can still be distributed to those who need it by not providing it to those in charge. If this money is monitored, there should be no issue of this.

A global tax of one dollar per person a week would be a huge benefit to those in the world who need the money and are living in horrible conditions. Taking into consideration of how the money gets distributed and that those giving the money do not place themselves in danger or in need, I agree to this concept of a global tax. Despite McMillan’s and Hardin’s views, I think it is a good idea to attempt to redistribute the funds in the richer countries by taking this very small step.

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