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The theoretical gap should be closed between ethical responsibility to a neighbor and to an unknown human being, across the world.

I recently stumbled upon the news of a not especially recent global summit, referring to the most efficient use of philanthropic money. These global experts, with their views summarized by Bjorn Lomborg, set the top global priority to improve human lives as HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. Two statistics struck me deeply, as I figure that they would for many everyday people. Discovered was that if we had invested 27 billion USD over the next 8 years, 28 million cases could have been prevented, from 2002 (the of the talk) - 2010. Likely many more cases would've been prevented in the future, due to less of 2010's populace having the disease. Also, the UN estimated that 75 billion USD, in a well-organized effort, could have been able to solve all of the world's very basic problems, including providing clean drinking water, health care, basic sanitation, and education to nearly all of the world's populace. Therein lies the philosophical question: why would nearly all of us consider it wrong to stand by in a $1000 suit of clothes, to avoid their ruination, while a young child drowns, but not to buy a HDTV while 1000$ to a global HIV/AIDS effort could stop more than one case from ruining another human being's life? No clear answer has been given, except for perhaps the explanation of social disconnect. Those same basic international problems mentioned would cost many times less than some military budgets. One can argue about economic growth, a social ignorance, or lack of trust in those organizations, but I, and perhaps many others, see a blatant moral wrong in these actions. To say so so is to decry the actions of 99.5% of US citizens in a country,similar to most, in which philanthropy, not including tithing, sums to about 2% of the national income. In a world in which this apathy is the overwhelming majority, am I looking at an ethically permissible pattern, or a moral degradation of our modern wold? Thanks.

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    Dec 5 2011: I'm afraid it's not possible for any individual to carry the same sense of ethical responsibility for each of seven billion persons. Read the edifying poem by Anna Lætitia Barbauld, written in 1771, "The Caterpillar.":
    www. . She's right: That which is close to us moves us more than that which isn't. That appears to be human nature.

    By the way, I suspect there's an error in the $$ figures you give for the need for world aid. $75 B can't possibly provide "clean drinking water, health care, basic sanitation, and education to nearly all of the world's populace." $75B doesn't come close to buying any one of those necessities for the U.S. alone, much less the whole lot for the whole world.

    I agree with you that we should do more. But it's difficult. In many countries where billions are given in aid, half of it winds up in the pockets of local politicians and other crooks. They get the $1000 suits and their constituents continue to starve. That makes it hard to motivate donors.
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