A reader writes that ethicist Derek Parfit died yesterday.
“I regret that, in a book called On What Matters, I have said so little about what matters. I hope to say more in what would be my Volume Four. I shall end this volume with slight revisions of some of my earlier claims.One thing that greatly matters is the failure of we rich people to prevent, as we so easily could, much of the suffering and many of the early deaths of the poorest people in the world. The money that we spend on an evening’s entertainment might instead save some poor person from death, blindness, or chronic and severe pain. If we believe that, in our treatment of these poorest people, we are not acting wrongly, we are like those who believed that they were justified in having slaves.Some of us ask how much of our wealth we rich people ought to give to these poorest people. But that question wrongly assumes that our wealth is ours to give. This wealth is legally ours. But these poorest people have much stronger moral claims to some of this wealth. We ought to transfer to these people, in ways that I mention in a note, at least ten per cent of what we earn.What now matters most is how we respond to various risks to the survival of humanity. We are creating some of these risks, and discovering how we could respond to these and other risks. If we reduce these risks, and humanity survives the next few centuries, our descendants or successors could end these risks by spreading through this galaxy.Life can be wonderful as well as terrible, and we shall increasingly have the power to make life good. Since human history may be only just beginning, we can expect that future humans, or supra-humans, may achieve some great goods that we cannot now even imagine. In Nietzsche’s words, there has never been such a new dawn and clear horizon, and such an open sea.If we are the only rational beings in the Universe, as some recent evidence suggests, it matters even more whether we shall have descendants or successors during the billions of years in which that would be possible. Some of our successors might live lives and create worlds that, though failing to justify past suffering, would give us all, including some of Those who have suffered, reasons to be glad that the Universe exists.”
Consider Africa. Corrupt governments run by brutal dictators mean than it is difficult for businesses to succeed (no one wants to invest in such countries) and only those in favor with the government are even allowed to succeed (corruption requires bribes). Poverty doesn't just happen, it has causes.
Throw in overpopulation, usually due to an utter lack of birth control and social values placed on having as many children as possible (often related to religious values, which ironically Westerners imported).
Plus, a complete lack of education and respect for education.
What folks need for the long term is not a bag of rice, but means of growing enough rice to feed their own population, in a country that is not torn by violence or tarnished by corruption and brutality. If people have a means of making a living for themselves this is far more powerful than a handout.