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    A Moral and Social Perspective on Sharing Resources

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    The ideas of helping those in need, humanity, and hospitality through sharing resources are clearly present and often discussed in many of today’s major religions, political systems, and moral foundations. In “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor”, Garrett Hardin debates the issue of how helping the poor will only lead to more death and misery then if the rich nations and its citizens were to stay away. He explains that many will find this morally wrong, however, many may not think about whether the concepts of kindness, hospitality and helping those in need through sharing resources are truly realistic (Hardin 8). Rather, Hardin explains how reconsidering and critically viewing these morals is just one sacrifice for the security of our future kin (8). Hardin also argues that sharing resources is not only unrealistic but also destructive since it stretches the few available finite resources to the point of ruin and possible exhaustion. Many argue and believe that the population rates will eventually slow down, but Hardin explains that resource sharing will contribute to the consistent population growth in many poor nations rather than help decline the population rates (2). Throughout his essay, Hardin uses many real-world examples, offered solutions and shows his extensive research in the area to make his readers believe in his credibility. The usage of ethos, pathos, and logos, combined with his professional tone and other rhetorical elements, create an effective argument for the ineffectiveness of sharing resources to help the poor.

    Throughout his essay, Hardin uses logos as the main rhetorical element. Logos is the appeal to logic and is often defined as convincing an audience by use of logic or reason. Examples of logos include citing facts and statistics, historical and literal analogies, and citing certain authorities on a subject (Definition and Examples). Hardin’s essay begins by establishing his main claim, which is the idea that the world’s resources cannot be distributed equally and any attempt to do so will ruin these resources. To further explain his claim, Hardin uses the metaphor of a lifeboat and its passengers as a representation of the earth and its resources. Hardin explains that only so many people fit on this lifeboat and that trying to fit too many people on this lifeboat will sink it. He compares this to the number of people that have access to the world’s finite resources, and the negative effect(s) sharing resources may have (Hardin 1). Hardin calls this “The Tragedy of the Commons” and supports this claim by offering three real-world (3).

    The first example Hardin gives is the World Food Bank, which is an international depository where nations may contribute money to help feed the hungry (7). Hardin argues that giving to this Food Bank and thus giving to the hungry in poor nations, will perpetuate the cycle of hunger and decrease the world’s reserve of food. He supports this with cited statistics that show poor nations grow faster than rich ones and will continue to grow and will, therefore, continue to need more food, even if aid is continued to be provided (Hardin 3).

    A second example of Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” is the environmental overload in India, which is inevitable even with the abundance of food provided for by aid programs and agencies (Hardin 6). Even though India’s population has increased significantly due to many food donations and continues to grow, there are increasingly less unspoiled forests, medical supplies, and other everyday essentials. This lowers the quality of life for every newborn Indian (Hardin 6). Every Indian helped due to food donations influences the population growth and lowers the quality of life for the rest (Hardin 6). This, again, leads to a “Tragedy of the Commons” situation and therefore supports Hardin’s claim.

    The third example of “Tragedy of the Commons” is the low allowance of immigration into rich countries. Hardin observes that the United States is a victim of this phenomenon and shows how the nation does this by explaining the common argument of how an overabundance of immigrants provides cheap labor, wretched wages, and taking resources while also advancing the decline of the environment and quickening its progress toward ruin (7). Hardin also observes how this phenomenon continues because US citizens are not demanding new immigration laws in the fear of being deemed “bigots” (7). This creates a “Tragedy of the Commons” situation and therefore again supports Hardin’s claim.

    Another rhetorical element utilized by Hardin is pathos. This is known as the emotional appeal and can be defined as persuading an audience by appealing to their emotions (Definition and Examples). One way he utilizes pathos is through descriptive language. While arguing his points, Hardin uses emotionally intense words such as “suicidal” and “complete catastrophe” (1). These words are likely to incite fear or a similar emotion in the reader, therefore likely leading them to agree with Hardin. Hardin also appeals to the reader’s emotions by talking about the Earth’s and reader’s future. He argues that if we maintain this current trend of offering aid and sharing resources, we will leave behind a ruined world for the future kin (Hardin, 1974, p. 8). This leads the audience to think of their children and their safety, as well to agree with Hardin out of feelings of fear.

    Besides logos and pathos, Hardin also utilizes ethos to persuade the audience of his argument. Ethos is the ethical appeal and can be defined as convincing an audience of the author’s credibility or character (Definition and Examples). Hardin demonstrates ethos by showing his expertise and frequently citing factual data to validate his arguments. As an example, Hardin explains and cites that the populations of poor countries increase at a rate 2.5% per year while the taxpayers of developed countries spend billions of dollars on welfare programs to sustain the consistent population increase of underdeveloped nations (5). Also, when Hardin explains to his audience that the population of India reached 1.2 billion people in 28 years, the reader gets a strong sense of the credibility and understanding the writer has of the topic (6). The frequent citations display that Hardin has done a lot of research on this topic. Hardin also uses personal experiences to appeal to the emotions of the readers and further show his expertise, such as him being present at a meeting in Hawaii where citizens of Japanese descent discussed the problem of immigration (7). His presence at such a privileged meeting suggests to the readers that he is an important person in immigration policy and because of this, his arguments gain more weight.

    The arguments and claims made by Hardin are certainly persuasive, although he could have used visual aids, such as graphs and/or charts, to offer a physical representation and further show the gravity of the situation. He explains his lifeboat metaphor and its importance mainly through logic, while he explains his views through statistics and data. Hardin also offers a sense of urgency to keep the audience thinking critically about the facts offered throughout the essay, and how to recognize the concepts, ideas, and arguments throughout everyday life. The amount of statistics and data given in the essay is sufficient for the reader to get a clear and in-depth understanding of the problem, and the examples provided are crucial to get Hardin’s major points across. Hardin also uses convincing and relevant evidence to argue that sharing resources hurt both the giver and the receiver.

    When developed or rich nations give away their buildup food to poor nations, these nations are likely to get into the habit of meeting their food demand while their population keeps growing and their own resources keep decreasing. Also, by continuing the process of resource sharing, the rich nations risk being unable to maintain their own populations (Hardin 6). As offered by Hardin, it would be smarter and safer for the richer countries to behave as lifeboats for the affected poor individuals and nations. Richer countries should prioritize their own needs and sustain their own population (Hardin 5). By successfully incorporating logos, pathos, ethos and other rhetorical elements in his essay, Hardin presents a strong support frame for his arguments and claims. Even though Hardin offers greatly convincing and well-supported arguments, they do not solve the bigger issue. As the essay is dated, further research and discussions are necessary to get a deeper understanding of the issues discussed in the essay, as well as to find better solutions to help solve these issues.

    Works Cited

    1. Ethos, Pathos, and Logos Definition and Examples. PathosEthosLogos, 2015, https://pathosethoslogos.com/. Accessed 2 Sep. 2018.
    2. Hardin, Garrett. “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor.” 1974. PDF.

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    A Moral and Social Perspective on Sharing Resources. (2022, Dec 01). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/a-moral-and-social-perspective-on-sharing-resources/

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