Lifeboat Ethics Essay

1655 Words7 Pages
Dear Editor, Garrett Hardin’s essay, “Lifeboat Ethics,” although a compelling read, is an appalling example of sloppy conservatism which seeks to manipulate the reader through erroneous, contradictory, bigoted, self-important, and cruel statements. “Lifeboat Ethics” is undoubtedly one of those opinion pieces that is meant to show readers the error of their ways. He all but begs the reader to set aside his or her “kind-hearted liberal” feelings, and provides many examples to walk the reader through his own viewpoint—as any good op ed should. (p. 134). Nonetheless, the omissions and baseless presumptions present in this piece insult the intelligence enough that it is impossible to seriously consider Hardin’s point (which is stunning in its brutality). Consistently, he presents metaphors, comparisons, and ideas which do not hold up to scrutiny. His self-assured statements which at first seem to be logical support for his point become ludicrous when reviewed on their own merits. Hardin first reveals his sizeable bias by comparing the rich countries of the world to lifeboats. (p. 131). This makes sense, until one considers the purpose of a lifeboat: a boat which saves lives. One could argue that the poor, outside the lifeboat, will die, and it is more likely that they will die than will rich people. However, unlike getting out of a lifeboat, the mere transition of becoming poor (or even less rich) will not kill someone. To premise an entire article on a shoddy metaphor necessarily weakens the point made by said metaphor. As someone who often finds myself living paycheck to paycheck, I find the implication that losing wealth is equivalent to dying ridiculous. Hardin’s poor use of examples continues with his misguided citation to the idea of the tragedy of the commons. (p. 132). After explaining the concept (sharing

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