Unit 2a: Ethics of Humanitarian Aid

“Mr. Mosaic.”

We should help those in need…


Even libertarian-leaning politicians voted to send a chunk of change to most American adults last week. Everyone needs help sometimes.

I’d love to tie this to our former topic: the ultra-wealthy who have found deviously creative ways to avoid paying taxes. These folks have been stepping up very conspicuously all of a sudden. What ethical switch finally flipped in their brains, do you think?

Libertarians and billionaires are giving us money! This is crazy!

Lecture Slides w/ Sound Clips

Supplemental Readings

Lives and Livelihoods: Assessing the Near-Term Impact of COVID-19 on US Workers, McKinsey & Company, April 2020. A comprehensive look at which American economic sectors have been decimated, which are shifting focus, and which are thriving under Covid-19. Read this first and see who needs help and who can afford to give it.

The New Humanitarian. Website providing an overview of non-governmental aid efforts around the world. Easy to navigate and updated daily. Scroll through and get a sense of Covid-19 situations on the ground in developing countries.

LGBT+ Group Sues Ukraine Religious Figure Linking Coronavirus to Gay Marriage, Reuters, April 13, 2020. Someone had to do it: an example of a guy (Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret) co-opting strife to serve his own interests. Implicit in this older-than-dirt ethical viewpoint is feeling no guilt whatsoever in ignoring the plight of Covid-19 victims.

The Extraordinary Decisions Facing Italian Doctors, The Atlantic, March 11, 2020. Grim example of triage ethics in action.

The Pandemic is Ravaging the World’s Poor, Even if They’re Untouched by the Virus, Washington Post, April 14, 2020. The last line is ominous.

Cure Worse Than Disease? Fox News, March 25, 2020. Older (March, LOL) argument that underscores Garrett Hardin’s idea (I think) that helping others doesn’t really help anyone–it actually hurts everyone.

Coronavirus Forces Midlanders to Think About Sacrifice, Midland Reporter, March 22, 2020. Adorable opinion from the middle of Texas, illustrating Peter Singer’s idea that helping others isn’t optional. Don’t hoard the TP!

Covid-19 Response, United Nations. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the U.N., gives a moral argument for a globally coordinated attack on Covid-19, linking humanitarian aid with development goals for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations. You can see Sen’s and Edkins’s ideas at work here.

COVID-19, school closures, and child poverty: a social crisis in the making, The Lancet, April 15, 2020. Virus–>no school–>exacerbates food instability for kids who rely on free breakfast/lunch–>widens learning gap for children in low-income households=not good for the group, over the long term.

Paper #2 Topic

Length 2-4 pages

Due: Friday, April 24, 8PM (email to me)

How has Covid-19 changed the way you think about the ethics of helping others? Do you feel that helping those less fortunate should be a choice, or a rule in this new age of global pandemic? Use thinkers from the slides and give examples from the articles to support your claims. You may also talk about your own experience with Covid-19 in this essay.

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