Our obligation to third world countries
Providing a sacred trust to those in need
Upon discussing the obligation that wealthy Westerners have to third world countries, Americans not only get politically charged and defensive, but they also blame everyone except themselves. People blame the government of foreign countries, the choices that the poor make, and the government of our own country for not providing enough foreign aid. In this paper, I will discuss the obligation that wealthy Westerners have to helping third world countries. I will use knowledge gained from a variety of people, including Andrew Carnegie, James Otteson, Albert Nock, and Milton Friedman. I will assert what I believe wealthy Westerners should do based off of previous knowledge from hands on experience in a third world country in addition to knowledge I have gained from taking an ethics class. I will argue that the wealthy should donate economic funds and/or their time to help those in need in third world countries because it is the responsibility of those who are rooted in this cause. It is also the responsibility of non- profit organizations and individuals to have engaging conversations that shed light on the need to help others. If people are unaware of the urgency to make a difference and do not feel compelled to act, then nothing will be done.
People may not understand the drastic need to help those in other countries unless they have come in contact with others who are less fortunate. This notion is illustrated in the study done by Milton Friedman, a Nobel Peace Prize winner in Economics. He suggests that to understand others, we have to create opportunities to get closer to those that our different than us (Friedman, 1970). By understanding others, people may be more prone to help, and effectively make a difference. Frequently, people who are wealthy do not visit remote places, which are the places that need the most assistance.
With regard to making a difference, the financial responsibility that Westerners hold is to provide economic funding to those in need. Values of this concept align with Andrew Carnegie, a wealthy Scottish immigrant, who is also noted as a philanthropist who made a huge impact on establishing libraries and schools in America. With hard work and dedication, Carnegie was able to get out of the slums and became one of the wealthiest men in America. He recommends getting as much education as you can, making as much money as you can, and donating your money responsibly (Carnegie, 2006). He also suggests giving something sustainable and addressing all the needs of the community, such as donating public goods. Instead he promotes sustainability though donations of libraries, orphanages, or farms. As shown with the proverb, “givea man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.” This creates opportunities for people to flourish, become self sufficient, continue to learn, and be able to live independently. If the wealthy donate to third world countries they should donate in ways that bring a greater immediate impact. The wealthy hold the opportunity to bring vast change in third world countries and should use their “sacred trust” to help others” (Carnegie, 2006).
Because the wealthy hold sacred trusts, it is the responsibility of non-profit organizations, foundations, and international based organizations who have wealth to share the urgent need to act and to provide funding to third world countries. These organizations need to reach out to wealthy Westerners and engage them in conversation to discover their areas of interest, whether it be pediatrics or the environment. Although the previously mentioned idea states that Westerners should hold the responsibility to donate to third world countries, I can not explicitly recommend that they should donate “x” amount of dollars because there is no prescribed formula for how much they should donate. Each person is different and what it comes down to is how much they may feel compelled to give.
As previously mentioned choosing to donate is a personal choice. Even though the wealthy have a surplus of money they should not be obligated to unwillingly donate their money to third world countries. The idea that people are not obligated to donate also aligns with American Philosopher James Otteson’s argument. According to Otteson (2006), choosing not to donate is not an act of being unjust. As humans we are autonomous and we need to respect other’s dignity by giving them the option to say yes or no. Although personally I believe that the wealthy should donate to just causes, they have the right to choose not to. If wealthy Westerners were forced to donate to third world countries, a stigma would be created that would instigate opposition and anger.
The primary responsibility to helping third world countries lies with wealthy Westerners and mission based organizations. However, the government should be restricted from making people donate. An example of the government getting too involved in foreign aid would be raising the taxes of the wealthy to provide foreign aid or providing tax-breaks for donating money for disaster relief. Instead of having government programs where people can get tax write offs for donating, people should choose to donate due to moral responsibility. According to Nock (1924), an American Libertarian author, “we need to have moral fiber, guiding ourselves to a self-imposed allegiance to moral or social considerations.” My beliefs are consistent with Nock in that I do not think that the government should enforce virtue on its people. Various opportunities should be made readily available through national non-profit and health organizations but people should have the ability to choose if they want to donate or not. In addition, people can even be “nudged” to donate by using propaganda such as provoking media messages and emotion filled pictures.
Westerners may argue that before we support other countries we need to take care of our citizens first. Regardless, it is important to take into consideration that many third world countries have no support from their government, have no government subsidized programming, and do very little to help their citizens improve their lives. This creates a hurdle that seems impossible to jump, providing little opportunity to flourish and to get out of poverty.
A rebuttal to my claim is that although wealthy Westerners have a choice of whether to donate some may argue that the responsibility lies in the hands of the wealthy. People place the responsibility on big corporations that have a large endowment to allocate a portion of their profits to third world countries due to the fact that they have a surplus of money. I will refute this by following Friedman’s article found in The New York Times, a CEO or Executive Director should not donate its funding to cause related organizations due to the fact that this money is in fact not their’s and often belongs to a variety of people such as stock holders, board members, and employees (Friedman, 1970). If wealthy business leaders are driven by a cause they should provide opportunities to educate their employees, providing opportunity for individuals to privately donate.
In conclusion, if wealthy Westerners choose to donate they should provide an opportunity of “economic prosperity” providing sustainable opportunities to the poor where they are “free to use, exchange, and give their propriety as long as their actions do not violate the rights of others” (Friedman, 1970). It is important for the wealthy to work with non-profit organizations and agencies to see where their donation will make most of a difference since donors are frequently lacking locol knowledge. Scott Rosenberg, Africana Studies professor at Wittenberg University and former Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho shared with me the same idea of using locol knowledge to help others in need. One example includes Western organizations trying to combat the battle of HIV/ AIDS. Western organizations applied programming to African countries without consulting civilians. They assessed the situation by implementing a condom campaign making an assumption that HIV/AIDS was spread through sex with multiple partners. Although this is true the situation at hand is not two dimensional and it was important for Westerners to realize that there were other components such as sex trade, economic stability, and companionship that played into this epidemic. Once Western organizations collectively worked with a variety of people such as the donor, the health organization, and community leaders their efforts were much more successful.
Lastly, the responsibility of providing funding to third world countries lies in the hands of the wealthy since they have an adequate surplus of funding but also in the hands of non- profit organizations and representatives of the impoverished country.
Formulate your own opinion!
Carnegie, Andrew. (2006). The “gospel of wealth”: Essays & other writings. New York, NY: Penguin Press
Friedman, Milton. (1970). The New York Times Magazine. New York, NY : New York Times Company
Nock, J. (1924). The state of the union: Essays in social criticism. Indianapolis: Liberty Press
Otteson, James. (2006). Actual ethics. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press