Explain how aid to the poor can be an investment for the future when referring to one with excess wealth helping the suffering of others. Explain using several examples including one from Peter...

Explain how aid to the poor can be an investment for the future when referring to one with excess wealth helping the suffering of others. Explain using several examples including one from Peter Singer’s paper “Famine, Affluence, and Morality.”

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is clearly possible to argue that aid to the poor would be a way of investing in the future.  We could say that this is true within a country or between countries.  Some people might not agree that direct aid to the poor really would improve their lot in life, but it is certainly possible to argue that it would.

Let us think, for example, about the Gates Foundation scholarships funded by Bill Gates of Microsoft fame.  These scholarships take money donated by one of the richest people in the world and use it to help young people of color from relatively impoverished backgrounds.  We can argue that this money constitutes an investment in the future because it increases the life chances of the people who receive it.  An investment is money that is spent now in hopes of getting future returns.  When the Gates money goes to a young person, that young person gains the ability to go to college.  By going to college, they improve their chances of getting a good job in the future.  If they get a good job, society gains because we gain such things as the tax dollars they pay on their salaries, the benefit of the work that they do, and their added ability to provide for themselves and their families.  We also are much less likely to have to worry about paying for public assistance for these individuals or, worse, paying to incarcerate them. 

As another example, imagine aid given by a wealthy country to a poorer country.  If the US, for example, gives money to improve infrastructure in Africa, the world will potentially become richer and happier.  Africans in the future will be able to use the infrastructure to improve their economic situations.  They will be able to enjoy a higher standard of living.  This will be good on humanitarian grounds because it will make them happier and it will be good on pragmatic grounds because it will allow them to buy more goods and services from others.

In his article, Singer refers to the possibility of giving aid that would bring about agricultural development.  This would clearly be an investment because it would help people in poorer nations to grow more food for themselves.  As with the aid discussed in the previous paragraph, this would increase their standard of living.  This would be a good investment in the future because it would mean these people would lead better lives and because it would make it more likely that they would contribute to the world’s economy in the future.

By transferring money from the rich to the poor, we can (at least arguably) help the poor become better off economically and in terms of their happiness.  This can be seen as an investment because when we improve the lives of poor people, we make it more likely that they will be able to contribute to our economy in the future.

mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The above answer is the one you should use as it covers everything you asked with great detail.  I am adding my answer as I was a poor kid who needed help to go to college.  Not just a little help, but scholarship help, working at a job, and having my clothes made for me as I had no way to get to any second-hand shop (nor were there many then).  By giving me money, my brain and good marks in school were not wasted as I fear many are today.  The government invested in me with grants, loans, and work study jobs to help me get through.  What resulted is that I became a tax-paying teacher who returned more money to the government in taxes than it cost them to pay for schooling.  I fear that today the government has quit investing in people, and we are the poorer for it.  I taught in corrections and poor districts which allowed parts of my loans to be forgiven because I taught where others preferred not to teach.   Many of those students were bright, often kicked out of school because of behavior or not allowing someone to know them, with minds that were capable of so much more if the government had invested in them.  I find the same thing at the homeless youth shelter where I volunteer now.  Most of them just need a bit of help to get them off the poverty wagon and onto a successful track.  Some have already succeeded, but too many run up against impossible obstacles.  So, if you think in the microcosm, aid to the poor in the individual sense is investing in our children, who have much to teach us.  They too add to our economy.