Peter Singer makes a very persuasive case that we ought to spend money to alleviate extreme poverty rather than buying the latest luxuries But what if what is needed is not sending away our affluence but letting in disease? Allowing travel to and from west Africa might increase the number of cases of Ebola in the US and slow the epidemic there; closing borders could both protect us here and intensify the epidemic there. If those are the facts, must we not only send money to distant places to help people over there, but let people living in those places bring disease here?
One question is about what each of us should do, individually, but another is about the government we've elected. Suppose they know a policy will add 100 new cases of Ebola to the US, but reduce new cases of Ebola in West Africa by 50%. Should our leaders enact that policy? Do they have special duties to protect the citizens of the country they lead, or should they maximize total good, without regard for who lives where? Are borders morally important or just arbitrary lines?
Questions, questions. Here's some good news on the Ebola front.