The secular moral justifications for giving aid seems to be divided between two strains: one focusing on payments being made in compensation for past or present harmful activity on the part of the giver (somewhat akin to domestic tort law) and one focusing on redistribution for reasons unrelated to any harm done by the giver to the receiver.
Note that this listing is meant to cover moral justifications only: self-interested rational calculations, like the prospect of creating new markets, are not being considered. The listing is meant to include justifications both for development aid used to build economic and social capacity over time and humanitarian aid used to help address immediate crises. I am not considering religious forms of morality.
- Compensation for past colonialism (including past support for repugnant but allied regimes during the Cold War and similar periods)
- Partial or complete redress for ongoing harmful activities (economic policies harmful to poor countries, exploitative international labour practices, arms sales, providing markets for illegal drugs and other problematic commodities, CO2 emissions, etc)
- Providing funds and resources required to attain a basic standard of living, predicated on a notion of essential human rights
- Paying to reduce total human suffering, especially among the innocent
- Transferring wealth from those who already have a large amount, and thus derive less utility from each additional dollar, to those who have a small amount and thus gain more utility at the margin
- Giving aid based on a Rawlsian conception of hypothetical contract based on a veil of ignorance
- Compensating for the fact that some are poor and some are rich for arbitrary reasons, such as where they were born (See prior discussion about the morality of inequality)
- Giving aid based on the idea that the capacity to give charity and the existence of a world where it is required makes doing so obligatory for the giver
I am writing a paper for my developing world seminar on: “What is the moral case for wealthy countries to give aid to poorer countries? What kind of aid (if any) is justified?” and trying to come up with a comprehensive list of general reasons. Can anyone add to the list above?