As I was reading the comments to Peter Singer's NYT article, "What Should a Billionaire Give- and What Should You?," that I wrote about in the last post, I found a link to another article where Singer answers many questions that were raised by his readers (http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/interviews-debates/20061224.htm). One of these questions is similar to the issue I raised near the end of the previous post-
"When thinking about an individual ... it's impossible for me to disagree with the idea of saving each and every child that we can possibly save -- but when considered abstractly I wonder if saving lives is actually helpful to humanity as a whole. Aren't we pushing the world even further out of balance ecologically by increasing population? I know it sounds terrible, but in the long term, wouldn't we be better off if more were dying, rather than fewer? ..."
In other words, does donating money to feed and medicate those in poverty artificially allow their poor populations to grow unsustainably in which more and more charitable money is needed in order to provide sufficient nutrition and medicine? To this question Singer replies:
"...ecologist Garrett Hardin proposed, for reasons very like those you have expressed, that the world should cut off aid to Bangladesh. Instead, in part because aid of many kinds... continued, Bangladesh is no longer among the world's most desperately poor nations. Moreover, its population growth has slowed. We don't need to wish for mass starvation to reduce population growth. Far, far better is to help other nations get to the point where improvements in health and education... begin to slow fertility."
I find Singer's response to be relatively unsatisfactory. While I agree it would be better if aid could be used to help improve a nation's health care and education systems, many times it is the governments themselves which hinder their own citizens from being able to make and support these changes and improvements. Unless charity aid were to fund civil wars in some countries, endless streams of aid would be ineffectual in making any changes to the quality of life of those in poverty. For instance, take Singer's own example of the improvement in Bangladesh, although he cites aid as being the primary motivator of change, he fails to note that around the same time a new government and independence from Pakistan also took hold. Without the change in the way that Bangladesh was ruled, the charity and aid may very well have made no change to the situations of those in poverty. Militaries, civil wars, and coup d'états are usually necessary in order for these types of countries to have changes in power structure- not charities. With that being said, aid organizations could potentially bring education to those in poverty about democracy and human rights which could lead to the changes in government. But charity in the form of providing food the hungry and medicine to the infirm would continue to motivate population growth exacerbating the problem until, if ever possible, a new regime could take hold.
Singer, Peter. "Questions for Peter Singer." 24 Dec 2006. Web. 15 Sep 2012. http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/interviews-debates/20061224.htm.