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Old 08-13-2003, 08:53 PM   #1
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Default Charitable giving - close to home or far away?

Gurdur made a comment in his thread on thalidomide and ethics which gave me the idea for this thread.

Let's say you intend to donate X monetary units to a charity. You've got a modest sum, but not enough where it makes sense to spread it around if it means parceling out $10 here and $5 there.

Do you have any greater obligation towards helping your neighbors/people in your neck of the woods versus people in a country half-way around the world?

After all, you might actually see or know some of the locals that you end up helping, and there could be some small personal benefit by seeing the overall standard of life (including yours) in your area improved a bit.

There is also the possibility that you would be better able to qualify the local charities, and maximize the effectiveness of your donation by picking the charity that gives the most bang for the buck.

On the other hand, your money might have a greater impact on more people if sent to a country with a significantly lower standard of living.

Either way, someone is going to lose out by not getting your money.

Do I have a greater obligation to help the suffering person in my city versus the suffering person in some barren wasteland 5000 miles away? Or is it OK to say "Hi Fred, sorry you've got (insert favorite horrific ailment here), but I'm just going to have to watch you waste away every day as I pass your spot on the street, because I've sent all I can afford off to Lower Barren Wasteland to help the people wasting away there".

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Old 08-13-2003, 10:09 PM   #2
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No one person can help everyone in the world, and I see no ethical obligation for geographical proximity to person helped either way. Unless that person was particularly important to me, such as a guy I passed an the street and talked to, in which case it would be less impersonal charity than taking something out of my paycheck which goes who knows where. It's probably a good thing if people have differences of opinion: then people with problems in wealthy countries get help too, as well as people where charity is more efficient.

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Old 08-13-2003, 11:44 PM   #3
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I think that people would feel a moral obligation to help those closer to them, so long as they are fond of them, etc. (No offense to mother-in-laws). People have a natural inclination to help family members more than total strangers, for example. While other people further away may need more help, most people do not feel an obligation to help them, either because they are unaware or because of a multitude of other reasons, such as the increased costs of sending funds to those parts of the world (which would reduce the net amount actually going to the charity).

Just my take on the matter.
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Old 08-14-2003, 01:30 AM   #4
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Default A little bit of both?

I know your premise was based on limited resources and having to choose, but if we played by the rules, we wouldn't be here, eh?

I actually don't tend to contribute money to humanitarian organizations. The types of organizations that get my money are things that jelp out the environment (i.e. WWF, Nature COnservancy), but I tend to donate time to local charities. I volunteer at food drives, play Santa Claus for "Toys for Tots", things like that.
(not that I've had a lot of either time or money lately...)
This to me seems the best of both worlds. The trees and animals I help by sending money aren't going to care where it comes from, but the people I help directly I get to know.

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Old 08-16-2003, 06:08 PM   #5
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We live in a fairly affluent area so we feel better about donating to charities that focus on the elimination of hunger and misery throughout the world such as Project Hope, Doctors Without Borders, & Oxfam. I feel no particular moral obligation to donate anywhere.....I act out of compassion---not obligation.
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