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Table 2 Common criticisms of the four theories 1

From: Global health and national borders: the ethics of foreign aid in a time of financial crisis

  Criticisms Rejoinders
Singer 2 Moral priorities should focus on local need, for reasons similar to those raised in relation to national borders. Singer allows that psychologically it might make a difference whether an individual is in severe need in front of one’s eyes or in a far-away country, but that it makes no moral difference.
  Singer demands too much of individuals as there will always be further work to do to relieve suffering somewhere in the world. All of one’s time could be spent relieving suffering, potentially endangering one’s own well-being. This is unlikely to pose a problem in practice. Singer’s recent work aims to define attainable standards for living an ethical life in a world that contains great affluence and extreme poverty [24].
  Any obligation to respond to the challenges of global health should be understood as one of charity rather than justice. For Singer, the severity of the suffering involved means that talk of charity is inappropriate. Provision of toys to children may be a fit subject for ‘charity’, but not meeting essential health needs.
Pogge Does Pogge’s analysis of harm cohere with ordinary usage? Does it satisfy the description of a negative duty (i.e. an injunction to refrain from doing something, in this case, causing harm)? Harm is always properly judged in relation to a subjunctive standard (i.e., the possibility of an alternative institutional order in which fewer serious harms are committed).
  Is Pogge’s empirical description of the global order accurate? Local factors such as poor governance or corruption are important in explaining the poverty of developing countries. Pogge emphasises that local and global factors often interact in complex ways, and that local factors may often have current or past non-local causes [25]. While it may often be sufficient to point either to local causes or to global causes to explain the persistence a phenomenon such as severe poverty or poor health status, this recognition cannot diminish the share of moral responsibility attributable to either set of factors [22].
Shue Shue’s concept of subsistence rights is indeterminate and may open the door to unduly extensive obligations The concept of subsistence rights is not designed to foster global economic equality and is sufficiently clear to guide foreign policy.
Rawls Individuals may be poorly served by a theory addressed primarily to peoples. One’s nation of birth is a matter of luck rather than choice, and is hence morally arbitrary. It should not influence life chances unduly. In addition, citizens may not be well represented by their head of state. We have stronger duties towards individuals than Rawls’s theory suggests. If we address our theory to individuals rather than peoples, we risk undue interference in the domestic affairs of independent peoples and exceed the proper scope of justice.
  Is the thesis of explanatory nationalism, which holds that the key ingredient in how a country fares is its own political culture and traditions, correct? Depends on one’s interpretation of empirical evidence.
  1. 1 These are criticisms commonly raised in the philosophical literature and by no means represent an exhaustive list. Rejoinders presented are consistent with the authors’ standpoint.
  2. 2 A general criticism of all consequentialist approaches would be that factors other than consequences are relevant to determining moral duties. Singer, like other consequentialists, would disagree.