Sending affluence, receiving pestilence

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.

1 comment:

Wayne said...

How would opening the borders here, slow down the ebola outbreak over there? Fewer vectors of transmission I suppose...

I think a better argument would be that the more US cases of Ebola there are, the more funding medical research will receive in order to combat the virus. So even though Americans would die of Ebola, it would, in the long run, reduce the number of people dying of Ebola. For the longest time, it was just an illness "over there." Now that can't be said any more.