Affluent to the Impoverished Introduction “Can we still claim the status of ‘the greatest’ when one out of two Americans is living in poverty or near the poverty line? ” According to Cornel West and Tavis Smiley- “Poverty in America has been given a new face; the poor are no longer disheveled vagrants who push carts down the streets. ” The two men took a poverty tour in order to gain a real perspective on the poor, one where they could absorb the up close and personal lifestyles and backgrounds of the impoverished.Many of their encounters with impoverished peoples backed their beliefs.
They argue that poverty is not married to one race, though the popular stigma seems to associate poverty with particular races and ethnicities. West and Smiley point out that the American Dream is “the ingrained guarantee of opportunities and success through dogged pursuit of personal wealth. ” George Carlin would disagree with the legitimacy of the American Dream. He looks upon it as a futile chase- saying “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it. Generally we think of the wealthy as being born into their wealth, and the impoverished as being born into their poverty.
We assume the advantages or disadvantages of being born into wealth or poverty make all the difference in how wealthy or poor a person will be, and while there is some leeway, we tend to believe there won’t be much progress made or lost. West and Smiley show that the poor are not necessarily all “born into poverty. ” Instead, a good majority lived the American Dream- they worked hard and it paid off.These were people who were living in the middle and upper middle class some or most of their lives, only to have factors beyond their control leave them in poverty despite their dedication to the American Dream. West and Smiley believe this broken American Dream has more to do with the people running the country than with poor people’s built in disadvantage or poor work ethic or poor decision making. West believes the U. S.
Department of Education caters to the wealthy.He visited the head of the United States Department of Education, Arne Duncan, and posed the question, “What is it like to be the head of United States Department of Education when you live in a nation where the value ofa poor child’s life is less than that ofa rich child’s life? ” He states: “It’s hard to deny that there is an indefensible lack of ompassion for America’s poor children; we’ve failed to make certain that they are properly cherished and nurtured. ” The argument that West makes is that if affluent Americans would create a surplus of compassion, the poor would not go without their basic human needs.Instead, every person would be more complete and would not “live in poverty amid unprecedented prosperity. ” West says that in order for this manifesto to work there must be “a renaissance of compassion in America” spearheaded by an “explosively radical movement directed at eradicating poverty.
To do this he suggests that the very wealthy stop looking at the general public as a means to continue making them about “finding loving social alternatives to the nightmare of poverty. ” West goes on to ask the question, “What kind of person do we really want to be?Do we want to be the kind who is cowardly and complacent or the kind who is courageous and compassionate? ” He brings forth a bold challenge, worded in a way that makes you want to Jump up and do something about poverty lest you be cowardly and complacent. However, the key point to this challenge is the assumption hat everyone feels an obligation to the poor, and also buys into the accusation of being cowardly and complacent if they don’t feel an obligation to the poor. We can assume the poor want to do everything they can to eradicate poverty, or at least to eradicate their own poverty.However, there is never any explication or objective standard given to support West’ challenge because it’s easy to be cowardly and complacent when you’re the one with all the money and everything to lose.
And it’s easy to be courageous and compassionate when you’re already in poverty and have nothing to lose. The entire premise of the article is faulty for it is impossible to assume complete cooperation, and gives no way to achieve complete cooperation other than weakly attempting to guilt trip the wealthy by calling them complacent and cowardly.In response to the inspiration and flaws of this argument we have come up with what we see as a more sound way to argue that the affluent have an obligation to the poor. In this paper we will attempt to explicate how current ethical ideas would address this issue and take a stance on which we believe to be the most effective solution.
Part 1- The obligation of the social contract Social contract theory is a philosophical ideology that views morality as consisting in a set of rules, governing behavior, that rational people will accept, on the condition that others accept them as well (Rachels).Beyond this idea, many aspects within the theory differ amongst its followers. A hugely influential social contract theorist named John Rawls addressed the problems of social and economic justice through his thoughts on the way a social contract system could function. The Rawlsian adaptation of social contract theory to a society would definitely support the dea that wealthy people do have an obligation to poor people in their country. In his work, John Rawls establishes a theory of Justice, which is the basis for his contract amongst people and types of government that can be established in a society.
The conception of Justice that he puts forth is “All social values??”liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the social bases of self-respect??”are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any, or all, of these values is to everyone’s advantage (Rawls, 1999, p. 524). ” In order to establish a system that perates to promote Justice and cooperation between classes and communities as Rawls wanted to (Marrens, 1997, p.
66), he proposed the “original position of equality,” (Rawls, 1999, p. 51 5) a hypothetical situation used to find this conception of justice.In this “original position of equality,” “no one knows his class position or social status, nor does any one know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength, and the like. ” This hypothetical situation allows the principles of Justice to be determined without the knowledge of future tanding. Because no one has any idea what position in society they or anyone else in society will hold, the only principles of Justice that will be established will result from The result of establishing principles of Justice that are fairly agreed upon would be a society founded on equality.
Rawls proposed that two principles would be agreed upon in the original position. First, each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others. Second, social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so hat they are both reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage, and attached to positions and offices open to all (Rawls, 1999, p. 523).These principles guarantee that everyone has certain equal rights, but also that if there are going to be inequalities present in society that they are maximally beneficial. These inequalities that are referred to are distribution of wealth and income as well as positions of authority and responsibility (Rawls, 1999, p. 523). An example that could be used to clarify how an inequality could benefit everyone would be allocating more esponsibility to a natural leader, as he or she would bring about more good to everyone through his or her increase in responsibility.
The proposition that these Justice principles ought to make up the core of a social contract in order to support equality in society would support the idea that wealthy people do have an obligation to domestic poor people. It is worth noting that while Rawls’s A Theory of Justice may be proposing the way a government should interact with its people, it also outlines the obligations people have with one another and the mindset necessary for this egalitarian society to function.His two principles function to create a level playing field for everyone, regardless of arbitrary natural advantages. Some of these are social position born into or the natural gifts one is born with. While these natural advantages are not considered Just or unjust, they are still accounted for in the attempt to create equality (Rawls, 1999, p. 526).
In a society outlined by these principles, the wealthy do have an obligation to the poor. The obligation is founded in each of the principles of Justice determined through the use of the original position.A government may be required to maintain a ociety held together by these standards; however, without members of a society agreeing to follow these rules the formation of a state would not really be possible.
All people abiding by this contract have the obligation to protect the legitimacy of the principles by respecting them. This would mean that all people have an obligation to make sure everyone has an equal right to basic liberties and they are also obligated to arrange social and economic inequalities to benefit everyone.The successful protection of these principles implies multiple obligations that people must have mongst each other. Those who are in a favorable position due to inequality, such as the wealthy, have a duty to ensure that they do not take advantage of the inequality they experience. They ought to make sure that everyone’s position is improved as a result of their favorable inequality. They also have the duty to make sure those who are not advantaged receive equal opportunity to both authority positions and distribution of wealth and income (Rawls, 1999, 521-522).Members of society in a more favored position must realize that “the well being of each depends on a scheme f social cooperation without which no one could have a satisfactory life; they recognize also that they can expect the willing cooperation of all only if the terms of the scheme are reasonable (Rawls, 1999, p. 527).
” This indicates that those in a create a system that allows those who are not able to experience those same advantages to reach an equal position. Therefore they must develop a scheme that most greatly benefits those who experience the harshness of various inequalities.John Rawls’s work has shed light on what would be necessary to provide a social contract for a society founded on Justice and equality.
In social contract theory as a whole, morality is based on the rules in which rational people will accept on the condition that others do the same. In order for wealthy people and poor people to coexist, they both must accept rules that create obligations towards one another. Rawlsian social contract theory implies that in order to facilitate an egalitarian society, those who are advantaged and society as a whole are morally obligated to make society as fair as possible for those who are disadvantaged. art 2- The utilitarian view I agree with the main premise of The Rich and the Rest of Us; the rich should help he poor. Though I believe compassion is necessary, I don’t believe it is an adequate solution to say the only way to help the poor is with compassion. Compassion needs to be coupled with a feeling of responsibility and the thought that help needs to be given to the poor by the rich. To say that we should force the rich to help by imposing some kind of law to force them to do so is not the solution.
They truly need to believe that if they don’t help they are not fulfilling their moral obligation as a human being. Laws can force some help to the poor, but the greatest gains will be ade by a willing outpour of compassion and a desire to help the impoverished, rather than a requirement. A law or requirement to aid the poor may help us achieve the goal of helping the lower class, but it doesn’t achieve the goal of fulfilling our moral obligations. If we first focus on fulfilling our moral obligations, the aiding of the poor would certainly follow.Aiding the poor is pretty vague; specifically, it is that the ones with the means to do so are providing happiness or a means to happiness to the impoverished.
Nobody is suggesting equalized incomes and a communistic society. We’re suggesting all are provided with the chance to pursue happiness. In utilitarianism, we define happiness as mental and physical Joy or at the very least, the avoidance of pain and suffering. We measure the amount of happiness by how long it lasts and the quality of it.We value intellectual or mental pleasure more than physical pleasure. It’s what sets humans apart from animals; the knowledge that we can actively pursue our happiness. According to Mill, “improving one’s happiness is a part of happiness” O. S.
Mill 1861 : ch, 4)” (Geoffery Scarre Utilitarianism ch 1 pg5). This point is brought up to strengthen the idea that providing happiness consists of more than Just providing the poor with basic food and shelter. That’s not pursuing or improving happiness, it’s simply surviving.The utilitarian perspective suggests spreading the most happiness to the greatest amount of people will bring about the greatest good. To accomplish this, utilitarianism suggests having moral rules requiring everyone to act in accordance with spreading the greatest good for the greatest number of people (Christopher Jencks Daedalus , Vol. 131, No.
1, On Inequality (Winter, 2002), pp. 9-65 The reason that they want to spread happiness is that there can be no greater goal as a human being than to be happy and to spread this happiness to other people.As members help the poor because by doing so they are giving happiness to a large amount of people, thus improving the happiness of the human race. The very smallest way for the rich to provide happiness would be to help provide reliable food and shelter. Satisfying physical needs such as food and shelter provides happiness, but a low quality of happiness.
By having the basic survival necessities such as food and helter taken care of, the impoverished can actively pursue and improve their happiness in other areas.I will explain how the act of the rich helping the poor will cause the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. The rich can provide the poor with the means of food and shelter which in itself will provide happiness because the poor are instantly able to focus on something greater than Just their physical survival needs. Take for example a homeless man who doesn’t know when his next meal is going to come from, and compare him to a man living in a shelter being provided ith food daily. It is easy to see the happier of the two would generally be the second person.Not only is the food and shelter providing some physical happiness, the second man is given the opportunity to find intellectual or mental happiness, while the man living on the street first has to fulfill his physical survival needs before pursuing any greater happiness. The other way that the rich helping the poor will provide happiness is through the option of the rich providing the poor with education.
This is to say that through education the poor will have the means of btaining a Job and being able to enjoy the mental satisfaction which goes along with getting a Job.There is no better happiness than the mental happiness that comes from higher education. An example of how the rich would make this possible for the poor would be the rich giving the poor access to getting a good education. This can be done by giving aid to schools in impoverished areas and by offering aid to those who wish to continue with their education after high school by taking financial instability out of the equation. Provide people to help the impoverished see the pportunities available to them and help them find Jobs.Just having a Job after being unemployed would be a great first step towards being happy.
As Mill said, improvement of one’s happiness is a part of happiness. If you were poor and uneducated and your biggest focus was finding your next meal and you transitioned to having an education and a Job you would feel like you had improved yourself. An example of how education can give mental pleasure is by giving an illiterate person the ability to read. Reading can give one immense pleasure; there is nothing like the feeling one gets after finishing a good book.So in conclusion the rich helping the poor should be a moral obligation because it would bring about a lot of good toa lot of people.
From the utilitarian point of view, having the ability to bring about good and not acting on that ability is morally wrong. The rich helping the poor would bring about the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people. Part 3- The importance of compassion Compassion is an attribute that is highly sought after. Compassion and love go hand in hand and love is our public discourse.Love is unselfish, loyal, and a philanthropic concern for the good of another. At its best, however, all love is a kind, vehement commitment that we cultivate and evolve, even though it usually surprises and decency. Love does not have other criteria such as where they are born, what their education level might be, who they may or may not know, what type of car they drive, where they live, or how much money they make. Compassion stems from love and is a feeling of wanting to help someone in need.
Compassionate people are collectively acknowledged as kindhearted, understanding, and accepting.Additionally, they give of themselves not out of weakness, but from a place of nnermost strength. Consequently compassion may be thought of as a virtue in the Aristotelian logic, compassionate behavior is a habit we’re taught, and which we must practice in order to strengthen it in ourselves (Fox). Fox says it is our responsibility as humans to take care of our fellow humans: “The sheer humanity of each and every one of us warrants our steadfast commitment to the wellbeing of each other. ” Many world-renowned people such as Dr.King, Dorothy Day, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi had the same definition of love and compassion in mind when they ere giving some of the most well-known speeches and advice known to man.
The choice is ours as to what kind of person we want to be. Fox asks if we want to be “cowardly and complacent or courageous and compassionate? What kind of country do we really want to be? Cold-hearted and calloused or caring and considerate? ” (136). I do not think that many people would dispute that they want to be anything but courageous and compassionate.These are two fantastic traits that most people desire to have. The average human is willing to help out those in need, because they are compassionate, not because they are forced. As discussed in The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky, even the early Americans, in the 1600’s showed compassion by emphasizing hospitality to those suffering destitution because of disaster.
While at times the compassion was considered fatigued in the United States, there were attempts to strengthen the American compassion against the storms to come; they stressed education of the charity-giving public.While, back in the 1600’s they did not donate money to different charities to help the poor, they donated what they could, which was a roof over their head and a place to sleep and aybe a meal or two. The wellbeing of our country has always been the utmost concern for many people, and helping those in need is a way to make the country stronger. Compassion is the starting point of change.
Without compassion in todays society nothing would be accomplished. Compassion is the change needed for the future. Compassion can bring change, and it does bring change.While our country is far from perfect and there are a lot more changes that our country needs for it to be perfect, it is slowly but surely happening. Through acts of love and compassion we can change our country and then the world.
Part 4 According to the social contract theory, “morality consists in the set of rules governing behaviors that rational people would accept, on the condition that others accept them as well. ” Because only the most general rules are accepted by all people, and no rules are completely adhered to, the social contract theory shows that we need government structure in our society.Poverty today is continuously getting worse as the rich are continuously getting richer. It would seem the solution in a perfectly moral society would be for the rich to help take care of the impoverished. The roblem with this is the idea behind the American Dream: the rich worked hard and hence their poverty. If this is the case, why should the rich give up everything theyVe worked for? Being part of a community means we have an obligation to our community to better it and not Just ourselves.
No matter how much money an individual has, as a whole, the community can work together in an effort to improve.This does not necessarily imply the rich need to dole out their money to take care of the poor. The government doesn’t need to take money from the affluent in order to solve the problems of the impoverished.
There are other ways to help the ommunity; helping at homeless shelters or helping someone find a Job goes a long way. Simple acts of kindness have a ripple effect. According to the Social contract theory the government is needed to enforce the basic rules of social living. Without government rules, our society would be in chaos and there would be a lot more poverty.The United States government tries it’s best to keep poverty under control, but there’s only so much they can do. Every person living under a government is a party involved in the social contract, and everyone has to buy in to the greater good idea for it to work successfully. This is assuming the rich want to buy into this idea in the first place.
Think about it, a person has the world in the palm of their hand. TheyVe been rich for as long as they can remember; their great grandfather was the first person to find oil in Texas.Their great grandfather went through lots of hardship and hard work before saving enough money to buy land and start drilling, and because of it his hard work will make it easy for the rest of his descendants. What makes that person care about anybody else? What if they don’t care about morals or ethics? Is it their Job to take care of every stranger they can? Of course it’s morally and ethically frowned upon, but is it legally acceptable to force a more fortunate individual to go into his/her own pocket and take care of a less fortunate individual?It’s not acceptable. Even if we were concede the legality and say it is acceptable for the law to force an affluent person to take care of the less fortunate, it’s a moot point. The outcome is irrelevant, no morally good act is occuring when a law forces the affluent to financially support the less fortunate. The act is morally good only if the affluent individual wants to help the less fortunate. The Social ontract theory says there must be guarantees that people will not harm each other, and people must be able to rely on one another to keep their agreements.
In order for this to be ensured, we must give the government the authority to enforce laws and agreements. There also needs to be compassion in life. People need to care about each other in order to make the world a better place. As in Rich and the Rest of Us, there are good people in poverty but there are also criminals, thieves, and prostitutes. This makes it hard to decide who actually wants to do better and find a job, and someone that wants to be a deadbeat. So many people come to our country to live the American Dream, and when they get here realize that very few people actually live the American Dream.Of course America is known for its freedom, but the real American Dream is that of the rich, and it will stay that way until the rich want to help somebody more than they want their luxury and power. Until then, everyone can still work to attain what he or she wants by fghting the uphill battle.
If it were easy everyone would be rich. Rich people do have an obligation to poorer people in a way, but only it’s only as much as what they want to do. Part 5 person to the less fortunate people in the United States.Though I can see where you could make the argument that with Utilitarianism your ultimate goal is to achieve “the greatest happiness altogether” by doing the most good to the most people, but as a counter argument, I don’t necessarily think that the rich are obligated to help the poor. One reason I do not believe that Utilitarians should say that affluent people are obligated per se, is because morality is based on an individual and is usually circumstantial. If that is the case, then it could be said that the more affluent people ould achieve the greatest happiness by keeping all of what is theirs or by giving to whom they want.
The point being that they are not obligated to give. When you feel obligated to do something, like give money to the less fortunate, yes you’re doing society a favor, but whatever you do give doesn’t always mean that’s what makes them happy. Sure, giving food toa homeless man might make them happy for a day, but he’s still dependent on that food the next day. Give him an education and a Job, and he is able to take care of himself the next day.
Giving to the less fortunate is also just making them more dependent. Helping them help themselves instead of Just giving them money would bring more happiness to the most people.People are happier and feel meaningful when they achieve something for themselves. Thus, morally speaking, the Utilitarian can in fact give to the less fortunate, but doesn’t need to do it as an obligation. The people in the US who depend solely on welfare are a great example of the affluent being obligated to give a portion of their earnings to the less fortunate. As we all know, that has been a hot topic in politics, and rubs the affluent people the wrong way knowing that a portion of their money they work ay in and day out goes towards people who barely work, if at all.
Using welfare as an example makes it seem like the Utilitarian approach would not bring the greatest good to the greatest amount of people if you are against the welfare system. In no way is it suggested the poor should not be helped. The people who can give should give willingly without being obligated to give to a system they don’t agree with or don’t see fit to handle their money. The term “obligated” Just seems to rub society the wrong way and instead, giving to the less fortunate should be out of the kindness f your heart and not determined by the government to be a requirement.Utilitarianism, as it pertains to welfare, may fall more in line with developing programs to encourage the less fortunate to become more self-sufficient, which will then increase their happiness and self-esteem.
That seems like a more logical approach than Just giving hard earned money to those less fortunate which in turn promotes dependency and unhappiness. Conclusion In conclusion, it is morally right for people who can meet the physical needs of others to do so, in so long as those providing (the affluent) can still meet their own hysical needs, and those being provided for (the poor) cannot meet their own physical needs.Furthermore, an obligation exists in this relationship due to the basest principles of both utilitarianism and the social contract theory. As previously explained, utilitarianism considers the morally right action to be the one which provides the most pleasure and/or avoids the most pain. Thus, it seems logical that, through the principles of utilitarianism, the affluent would be morally obligated to provide for the physical needs of the poor. If the affluent care for the pleasure and less pain for those being provided for.And, there could possibly even be an increase in the pleasure of the affluent that are providing; many people feel fulfillment and a greater sense of happiness by providing for the less fortunate.
The alternative option would be for the affluent not to provide for the poor’s needs in which more poor would be in pain and have less pleasure. Therefore, according to utilitarianism, it is morally right for the affluent to meet the needs of the poor. The social contract also implies that the affluent have an obligation to provide for the poor.John Rawls’ contract theory essentially requires that a moral code of onduct be formed between various types of relationships in which the morals that govern our interactions are decided in a completely neutral manner. Simply put, the way we decide what is right must be decided in a way that removes our own interests and even identities so that fair, rational decisions can be made.
Therefore, it seems reasonable that rational beings would declare it morally right for the affluent to provide for the poor considering that no one would know if they would be affluent or poor.Thus, rational individuals would seem to choose the option which ensures that hey will have their needs met. Furthermore, according to social contract, inequalities should only exist if they are expected to be to everyone’s advantage.
It would not seem to be to everyone’s advantage for the affluent to hoard their resources and ignore the needs of the less fortunate. However, if the resources of the affluent were used to meet the needs of those who cannot meet their own needs, then it would seem that the inequality is somewhat beneficial in that those with more can provide for those with less.Thus, John Rawls’ contract theory implies that rational beings ould choose for the affluent to provide for the needs of the poor, and it also seems that the affluent are obligated to do so in order to uphold the social contract and ensure inequality between the groups benefits each group. While some of these arguments for provision strictly refer to the physical needs of the impoverished, there is also an emotional need that requires caring and compassion.The article discussed in the beginning of this paper makes the case that a desire to help is also needed as an addition to providing resources/services in order to bring about change nd help the poor advance their economic and social status. While it is not quite apparent that emotional care or compassion for the poor are obligations of the affluent, it does seem morally right to provide care and compassion in hopes of helping the less fortunate improve their economic and social standing.
Utilitarianism would definitely argue that it is morally right for the affluent to provide care/ compassion if it could provide pleasure and possibly help avoid pain with no apparent repercussions. Social contract however, may not appeal as strongly to the need to provide care or compassion. There is no evidence to suggest that rational beings would necessarily agree to be caring or compassionate. So, while there is not necessarily a reason to deny care or compassion, it does not seem to be an obligation either.However, offhand it seems that being caring and compassionate brings about a greater overall good than being cold and uncaring. Finally, this paper also acknowledges the possible counterpoints to our arguments for provision regarding utilitarianism and the social contract. In utilitarianism, there is a question as to whether providing food, shelter, and such also provides pleasure.
While this point is not have it otherwise will definitely help them to avoid pain, and the absence of pain and suffering is a component of happiness.When discussing the obligations of the rich to the poor, one must also consider the wellbeing of the affluent. If being required to provide for the less fortunate causes pain or suffering for themselves, it would seem to be morally incorrect. This is why the schema and paper specifically say that the affluent are those that can provide for the needs of others while still providing for their own needs.
Thus, providing for others will not require them to ave fewer needed resources. The primary question concerning the social contract deals with whether the affluent have an obligatory contract to people whom they have never met.However, the social contract can apply from the individual level to the international level, though complexity varies between levels. The argument of this paper is that the affluent must provide for the poor so that the inequality between them on a nation- wide level is beneficial to both groups. Thus, as American citizens, the affluent are obligated to ensure that the poor have equal rights to resources and that the nequality between them serves a beneficial purpose to uphold the contract that exists between citizens.
Though these counterpoints exist, the argument of this paper stands in its affirmation that the affluent have an obligation to provide for, at the very least, the physical needs of the poor. As long the affluent can meet the physical needs of the poor while still meeting their own needs. The affluent are not being asked to sacrifice their wellbeing for that of another less fortunate person.
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