The Analysis for Lifeboat Ethics the Case Against Help the Poor


TheAnalysis for Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Help the Poor

LifeboatEthics: the Case Against Helping the Poor is an article by GarretHardin. According to the article, the main argument entails the claimthat the poor should not be helped. The initial matter as describedin the article is spaceship ethic and the lifeboat ethic. Inspaceship ethic, the author outlines that resources should be sharedconsidering that individuals have the same shares as well as needs.On the other hand, in the lifeboat ethic, resources should not beshare and as a result, the poor should not be helped. Hardin putsforth three factors which makes lifeboat ethics the best in governingindividual actions. These include the presence of limited resources,lack of a right world government that should be responsible incontrolling reproduction as well as the employment of availableresources, and misfortune of commons.

Insummary, the major argument of the article includes:

  • There are limited resources.

  • The availability of limited resources makes lifeboat ethic the best in governing our actions thus our resources should not be shared.

  • The lack of sharing our resources implies that the poor will in turn experience problems as they will not receive any help.

  • Lifeboat ethics supports that the poor should not be helped.

Hardinstarted the article with a metaphor “The earth is like aspaceship”. This is followed by an explanation of why the earth anda spaceship are not similar. In order to do this, the author gaveexplanation of how the earth and a lifeboat are more similar ascompared to the aforesaid metaphor. In his explanation, Hardin hasput forward that the rich nations are individuals on the boat whilstthe poor nations are individuals in the water. The latter are poor asthey failed to have adequate luck as compared to their counterparts.Hardin continued by putting forth that each lifeboat has a specificcapacity limit. This means that their survival entails avoidingsurpassing that capacity or staying below such a limit.

Certainly,Hardin compares the lifeboat with the limited resources on the earth.As per my understanding, individuals should do the same thing withthe limited resources as it is done with the lifeboat. This impliesthat each survivor for herself or himself. Hardin’s claim asaforementioned does not support assisting the poor and it made senseat some point. I concur with him that the poor nations should not betreated like charity case. Nevertheless, they should be treated asreal, intelligent and able beings. He has offered a lot of proofwhich has assisted the reader in understanding his claim. To startwith, Hardin employed countless numbers together with persuasion inbacking his claim. For instance, he has employed the issue ofincrease in population, besides using history to give emphasis to hisclaim. His employment of reality and reason were tremendouslyconvincing.

Thequestion here is does every person on the planet have the same rightto the same share of the limited resources available? Hardin’sspaceship metaphor should be understood well as misguided optimistsmay use it in giving explanation for suicidal policies that should beused to share resources by the use of uncontrolled foreign aid andimmigration. In some cases, the idealists fail to differentiate theethics of a lifeboat and those of a spaceship. Unlike a spaceshipthat requires a captain to keep it under control, the earth lacksone. Besides, if the earth can be divided into two, that is rich andpoor countries, it is certain to say that approximately one thirdcomprises the rich nations whilst the rest are poor. Metaphorically,every rich country can be said to be a lifeboat that is occupied byrelatively rich persons. Outside every lifeboat swims the rest whoare the poor with the hopes of entering in, or rather be given a partof the wealth. In this case, the passengers should not just allow thepoor to get into the lifeboat considering that they must understandthat a lifeboat has a limited capacity. Similarly, countries alsohave limited capacity in supporting a give population some of whichhave surpassed that.

Inspite of the fact that he employed facts and logic to support hisclaim, it is true to say that the article was authored by a “richold white guy”. This can be supported by the part he wroteregarding immigration. Although he made numerous points regardingimmigration, his argument that, allowing individuals who are lookingfor better life in our countries, this causes injury to the lives ofour grandchildren. In this, it can be said that he lacks empathyespecially for the poor who make an effort every day in search forbetter lives.

Inmy opinion, the article has a positive effect considering that Hardinwas able to offer facts and logic to support his claim. However, heappears to lack emotions and empathy but the logistical part of hisargument surpasses the former. The overall goal of the article was toenlighten the readers and open their eyes with reason.


Hardin,Garrett. LifeboatEthics: the Case Against Helping the Poor.1974.