According to the utilitarianism theory, one should do the activity that provides the maximum utility, which is usually the one that promotes the greatest well-being of the people. Such are the views that Peter Singer, a utilitarian, voiced in “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” He believes that one has a moral obligation to prevent something bad from happening if it is in his powers as long as nothing of comparable moral importance is sacrificed. His view is in regard to the number of people dying daily from lack of food, shelter, and medical care. This view gives rise to three premises, that suffering due to lack of food and shelter is bad, that it is within the power of affluent members of the society to prevent the suffering of the famine-stricken societies, and that the affluent members will not sacrifice anything of comparable moral importance to help the starving people. His argument gives rise to heated debates on whether affluent members of society are morally obliged to donate resources to those who need them most in society.
While it is thoughtful and kind to help the suffering in the society, no one should be obligated to prevent harm from befalling someone especially when one is perfectly capable of preventing the harm from coming their way. Also, there are people responsible for taking care of the suffering in the society (Singer, 2016). For instance, it is the government’s duty to alleviate its citizens from misery so donating should not be made a moral obligation yet it is the government’s duty. However, if one is in a position to help, then they should do so without being guilted to donate. The premise that affluent members will not sacrifice anything by helping the poor does not hold (“Utilitarianism, Act and Rule | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy”, 2019). They could spend the money for other worthy causes without necessarily donating it to aid agencies. Moreover, morality should be impartial, so the less priviledged members should not receive aids at the expense of the affluent. As such, the affluent members should be allowed to enjoy their resources as long as they are not preventing the less privileged from accessing their basic needs.
In conclusion, it is okay to donate to the needy if one is in a position to but that should not be made a moral obligation.
Singer, P. (2016). From “Famine, Affluence and Morality” to Effective Altruism. The Philosophers’ Magazine, (73), 60-61. doi: 10.5840/tpm20167374
Utilitarianism, Act and Rule | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.iep.utm.edu/util-a-r/