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DEPRIVATION AND INSTITUTIONALLY BASED DUTIES TO AID

Stefan Gosepath
Freie Universität Berlin
Stefan Gosepath
Freie Universität Berlin
Open Panel

Abstract

Destitute persons are entitled to the help of those who live in better circumstances. Addressees of the obligation to help the destitute in cases of need are all individuals living in better circumstances, who have a shared responsibility to eradicate states of need. This paper explores the problem of how to think about the fulfillment of an ideal-theoretical duty of individuals to contribute to the eradication of global poverty given the recognition of three facts or nonideal circumstances: (a) The problem of the imperfectness of the moral duty to aid. (b) The uncertainty for each individual whether enough others will comply with their duty. (c) The excessiveness of individual attributions of responsibility for all cases of responsibility for changeable, morally wrong states of affairs. In order to do justice to their individual obligation, all individuals living in better circumstances, who have a shared responsibility to eradicate states of need, have to join together and create political institutions to jointly render assistance. Thus in such a case individuals assign responsibility to collectives as a means of fulfilling their individual responsibility. This position ascribes the responsibility to help in a crisis to individuals collectively, even though these individuals do not have a ‘causal responsibility’. The relevant institutions must be capable of attributing an appropriate share of the common responsibility to the individual persons and of enforcing the completion of the obligation. These political constructs of shared responsibility can both specify the addressee of the obligation to help and solve the problems of coordination and of excessive demands. We may thus hope that the global social ills, insofar as this is empirically possible, can be corrected or at least to significantly alleviate them.