Tuesday, September 22, 2009


David Crocker notes that “development ethics starts from judgements about what Dewey would call a ‘problematic situation’: many people throughout the world undeservedly and needlessly suffer or die.” I agree with Crocker on this statement, although I do not share the judgement. I find it difficult to judge whose suffering and death is undeserved or needless, as much as whose life is undeserved or needless. To find others’ lives, suffering, and death undeserved or needless seems beyond my comprehension to me. Nonetheless, development ethicists do not feel that way and they assume a certain position on the matter. If other people live and die under the poverty line suggested by the World Bank, they regard it not only as suffering but also as undeserved and needless. I wonder how they would feel if their lives were regarded as such by the very people they think this about. They certainly do not pass value judgements on, or are not worried about saving e.g. Donald Trump from his undeserved and needless life.

The situation is problematic indeed... It is not so much the fact that one group of people pass such value judgements on another (that’s been the case throughout history), nor is it that they built it into a certain ethics (remember the religious wars), nor is it that they have the power to influence the situation (as it has always been the case). The problem is that, several developmental economists from the South assume the role of a Southern intellectual, who can speak in the name of others who live below the poverty line, while they have been educated in Ivy League Colleges and live abroad.

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