Looking for a Challenge.
Debate Rounds (4)
I'm looking for a challenge, and I ask only that the contender provide three reasonably controversial topics that s/he would be willing to debate. I would, of course, prefer that they be clean, but they don't necessarily have to be serious.
In the first round, my opponent will introduce the three topics and I will select one in the second round.
The second round will initiate our debate. As a note, my opponent does not have to be con, depending on the issue. I have merely accepted the "pro stance" due to the fact that I have started the debate and am eager to commence.
Thanks for reading and may we have an enjoyable debate!
1) Schools (and colleges, universities etc.) should not use written examinations as a form of student assessment. I would be PRO in this debate.
2) The President of the United States should be elected by popular vote, rather than by an electoral college. I would be PRO in this debate.
3) We, as individuals, have a moral duty to give a significant amount of our income to charity. I would be PRO in this debate.
If anything isn't clear enough, feel free to ask in the comments section. Good luck!
1stLordofTheVenerability forfeited this round.
The debate he chose was option 3: We, as individuals, have a moral duty to give a significant amount of our income to charity. I am proposing this motion, and 1stLordofTheVenerability is opposing it.
As I do not yet know exactly the approach that he will take in opposing the motion, I will list out my case in relatively brief form, so that I don't spend too much time developing points that he immediately concedes. Due to this, sometimes I'll assert things which could be developed further - rest assured that, if challenged on the point by my opponent, I will do so. As always, I retain the right to introduce extra points/material as may prove necessary in further rounds. So without further ado:
=== INTRODUCTION ===
My claim, detailed above, can be split down into two separate arguments: firstly, that we should give a significant amount of our income to charity; and secondly, that we have a moral duty to do so.
=== ARGUMENT 1: THAT WE SHOULD GIVE A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF MONEY TO CHARITY ===
As I said in the first round definitions, I have left the precise definition of "significant amount" deliberately vague. It is clear enough, however, that this is different from giving a small amount of money (say $5) every now and again, perhaps when they feel particularly moved by a TV appeal, the disaster affects them personally, or maybe because the person on the street soliciting donations was hot enough to catch and keep their attention.
People should either give a little bit of money on a more regular basis, or give a larger donation (more in the region of $500/$1,000 than a fiver) on the same basis that they currently do, whichever they are more able to do based upon how much disposable income they have at any one time.
I have two main reasons for this:
1) More money helps more people. A fiver by itself may help save one child, or provide for a few vaccines. $500 (or whatever), however, could help many more children, provide more vaccines, or even be instrumental in building better roads, more hospitals, training and hiring more nurses, etc. - long-term development goals that develop a whole community to deal with problems rather than remaining reliant on external aid.
2) We can't rely on everyone to donate. This may be because they either literally don't have any disposable income or don't perceive giving to charity as a moral duty in the same way that I argue we should do. Even if reason 1) isn't accepted, then, we should cover for those who can't give, by giving as much as we can, as often as we can.
=== ARGUMENT 2: THAT WE HAVE A MORAL DUTY TO GIVE TO CHARITY ===
I probably should provide a couple of extra definitions - apologies for not doing so in the first round.
I will try to define "moral duty" without getting too much into philosophical technicalities. Basically, at the moment society generally views giving to charity as a voluntary act, something which people are praised for if they do, but not especially blamed if they don't. I propose that society should see giving to charity as something which everyone (who can do so) should do, and as such people won't be praised for giving to charity, and would/should be blamed if they can do without significantly impoverishing themselves but do not.
A "charity" is a not-for-profit organisation, and is defined by Merriam-Webster.com as "an institution engaged in the relief of the poor" and "public provision for the relief of the needy".
That out of the way, I have one main reason for this, which is perhaps best expressed in three parts:
1) People suffering and dying is bad. This is probably a safe assumption.
2) Charities are there to ease suffering and prevent death in situations where we cannot directly do so. This, once again, is probably a safe assumption.
3) There is no morally relevant difference between situations where people are suffering and dying nearby, where we can directly help them, and far away, where we cannot. This one is more likely to be contentious. So now to go into the lovely realm of thought experiments:
Let us imagine that someone - for sake of names, let's call him Steve - is walking between business meetings when he comes across a young child drowning in a pond in the park. The child's mother is the only other adult around and can't swim, meaning that she's either by the pool out of her mind in despair, or is drowning alongside her son. (If the latter, don't worry: Steve has just about enough time to save both of them.) Steve, however, can swim. Fairly well.
It is fairly straightforward what Steve should do. It may make him late for his next meeting, or ruin (what for the purposes of this thought experiment we'll say is) his expensive, tailor-made suit, but none of that should matter. He should jump in and save the child. (Hell, he might even have time to take his jacket and shoes off, keeping the dry-cleaning bill to a minimum. Win-win! :p) Furthermore, he should do so, and we would be right to think him to be a moral monster if he did not. We can paraphrase this as him having a moral duty to save the child.
Granted, there are many superficial differences between the decision to help here, and the decision to (perhaps indirectly) help people helped by charities. But none of them are morally relevant. Perhaps the closest you can get to a good difference is the difficulty sometimes in knowing to which charity you should donate your money. But this would only lead to people needing to spend some time researching the different charities to determine which is best at helping those in need; it doesn't mean that we should shirk our duty to donate at all.
I'd usually now write out a conclusion. However, thanks to the amazing decision of debate.org to allow us to format our debating rounds, to read my argument in a brief and snappy summary all you have to do is read the sentences in bold :-)
I await my opponent's response.
Firstly, I contend that my opponent, being Pro, bear the onus of proof, and I merely have to disprove that, "We, as individuals, have a moral duty to give a significant amount of our income to charity."
I affirm the definitions that my opponent has provided, and also that both he and I have the right to introduce further arguments as the debate progresses.
Also, I believe that charity is of utmost importance to our civilization, but I do not believe that we have a moral responsibility to regularly proffer our hard earned revenue to those who may or may not deserve it.
My opponent has defined "charity," and I agree with the definition, but I believe that charity can be divided into three categories: 1. "Development Assistance", 2. "Humanitarian Assistance" and 3. "Emergency Assistance." I think that all can agree that the most annually is donated by individuals to "Humanitarian assistance" organizations.
The first proposition I raise regards the question, "Are the people to whom we give deserving of our money?" Many of us view daily those who sleep in parks, on sidewalks or hunker in buildings. At home, one is forced to face the fact that money directly given will, more often than not, be spent frivolously (on illicit substances, cigarettes or alcohol rather than food, clothing or housing). "I noticed a lot of these people "working it"... One gal would start to cry as soon as people would cross in the crosswalk...then the tears would dry up till the next crowd. " (Your Conscience, 1)(2)
In Mexico and other impoverished nations, swarms of people and children crowd rich tourists and attempt to pawn off cheap, worthless objects in return for an exorbitant amount of money. Or perhaps they will simply request money, candy, objects etc. and then hand it over to a superior, so that s/he may profit. This superior certainly doesn't deserve any portion of our hard earned income. Therefore, we can reason that it isn't a moral responsibility to offer funds to these people.
Secondly, the more of one's income one donates, the less one has available for one's future, retirement, education, children, vehicle upkeep, bills, household expenditures etc. By regularly donating "a significant portion" of one's income (perhaps fifteen percent of the paycheck each week), one will be forced to neglect essential needs for one's self. A middle aged couple who donate a sizable portion of their income will not be able to afford a comfortable retirement, as they won't have much money saved. How is a student to pay for his/her education when much of his/her income falls to charity? The household must be in order and financially before one can consider donating any quantity on a regular basis. For one to neglect financial stability would be a moral irresponsibility to the family.
Thirdly, what do certain charities do with the money? Many Not for Profit organizations are run like a profit business - including executives and a board of directors who may receive a sizable income. Therefore, much of your money isn't help the impoverished, ill or chronically hungry at all - it's lining the pockets of corporate businessmen. (Plan Canada Board of Directors, 3.). It is unlawful in Canada for directors to be compensated, but they may receive fabulous bonuses that certainly cost a great deal but may not count as "wages" (for example, a "corporate" trip to Hawaii). "At one time, the American Cancer Society spent only 26 percent of its national multibillion-dollar budget on actual medical research, allotting the other three-fourths to “operating expenses.” (4.) It is also unlawful for charities to support terrorism or run various scams, yet every person knows that these activities still occur - possibly under blanket charities with spotless reputations. It certainly isn't a moral responsibility to donate to these.
Fourthly, some charities seem frivolous – Tim Hortons funds Timbits hockey for children. Giving to the organization is admirable and generous, but morally obligatory? Ronald McDonald House provides lodging for beleaguered parents – not essential, though definitely helpful. Neither of these seem like charities that one should be "morally obligated" to donate "sizeable quantities" to.
~~~ Rebuttals ~~~~
"More money helps more people." This is a safe assessment, and I agree, but my opponent then proceeds to state, "long-term development goals that develop a whole community to deal with problems rather than remaining reliant on external aid." That certainly is true, and there are, indeed, a few philanthropic organizations that offer development aid, but, according to various statistics, the most aid offered is humanitarian assistance, which is short term and merely sustains people in their current situation. Another point I have regarding development aid is that portions must be permitted by the recipient nation's Government. That Government may then confiscate most of the money offered, sell the supplies and profit. 5. http://www.nowpublic.com...
=== INTRODUCTION ===
Before getting into specific rebuttals and re-affirmations, I wish to make clear one point that applies across the board: My case is not about prescribing specific charities to which we should be expected to give.
As such, the various arguments that my opponent provides about the demerits of certain charitable organisations do not quite hit the target that I am providing. To quote the key part of my moral case in the last round:
"Perhaps the closest you can get to a good [i.e. morally relevant] difference [between the obligation of Steve to save the child and the obligation to donate to charity] is the difficulty sometimes in knowing to which charity you should donate your money. But this would only lead to people needing to spend some time researching the different charities to determine which is best at helping those in need; it doesn't mean that we should shirk our duty to donate at all." (italics added in emphasis.)
This point sets aside the third and fourth substantives that my opponent put forward - concerns about specific charities do not and should not over-ride a general moral obligation to donate to charitable organisations. They should merely inform a sense of investigation about the efficacy of charities before donating to them.
=== RE-AFFIRMATION OF MY CASE ===
It is unfortunate that my opponent didn't have the space with which to rebut the key section of my points about morality, given its centrality to my case. I look forward to his rebuttal on it in his next round.
That besides, he did rebut the parts to my first argument, on the question of donating a "significant amount" of money, etc. To this end, I would like to re-iterate from my last round that this applies not only to the prospect of development aid - which my opponent rightly states is currently (and unfortunately) not given to enough at the moment - but also to humanitarian aid... for example, by helping more famine-stricken children or providing more vaccines to innoculate more people against diseases.
I accept my opponent's further point on this regarding governments, but only insofar as governments would have to allow charities into their country to provide aid (unless we go as far as invade on humanitarian grounds). But this need not apply to my opponent's specific point about governments supposedly being able to "confiscate" money and supplies. This is a massive problem with a lot of current aid - and is an excellent reason not to donate to specific charities that allow such things - but need not be the case, if the NGOs in question take the money themselves and directly translate it into aid and supplies on the ground. There is no reason to suppose that all such charitable enterprises in foreign countries are doomed to failure, such as to over-ride the moral obligation that I argue exists to donate to charity.
=== REBUTTAL AGAINST MY OPPONENT'S SUBSTANTIVES ===
Apart from the two substantives dealt with the introduction to this round, I shall deal with my opponent's remaining two substantives in turn.
The first question he raises is about the problem with giving aid directly to people, who may then misuse the funds. This is not relevant to the question of whether we should be obliged to give to charities - defined in my last round, as accepted by my opponent, as not-for-profit organisations.
The second issue he raises does not lead, either, to the conclusion that we should not give a significant proportion of our income to charity, only that we should be careful and not reckless about how much we actually give. Note that in my clarificatory definition provided in the very first round, I made it clear both that the specific amount to be donated would naturally change between individuals, and that it should not be so much that the giver becomes impoverished (or "bankrupt", as my opponent phrased it).
Look to the example of Toby Ord, who recently became modestly famous in the UK for his commitment and advocacy towards donating a proportion of his income to charity. (http://www.bbc.co.uk...) He is giving away a third of his income - by anyone's definition, a significant amount - and yet still has £18,000 a year to use. Given that he has a wife earning a similar amount after charity-donation, combined there is certainly no question that they will run into financial difficulties anytime soon. Even if we add in dependents - elderly parents and/or children - that would only mean that they should reduce the amount they give to charity, perhaps to "only" a quarter of their income. Still significant, yet not by any means impoverishing or bankrupting them.
Even taking the student example that my opponent mentioned, their tight financial situation only means that they should be careful not to waste money. Do they really need that extra DVD or Xbox game? Do they really need to buy every textbook on their list, especially when their university's libraries will have most (if not all) of them in stock anyway?
Toby Ord's website on the issue has a calculator - http://www.givingwhatwecan.org... - designed to prove how lots of people often don't realise just how much they earn relative to those in dire suffering elsewhere. For most people, a significant proportion of their income is disposable, to the extent that they don't need it in order to live a very good life - even to the standards of their friends and family. When we both know, and can do something, about famine and poverty in the world, and instead waste money on truly frivolous ends, that is morally inexcusable.
I await my opponent's response :)
I have one inconsequential point before delving further into this round of rebuttals and ripostes. My opponent must not have comprehended that "famine-stricken children" would fall under the category of "emergency aid" charity. A famine, or a drought, is an emergency and would be responded to in kind. As a matter of fact, famine causes, "...less than 10% of hunger deaths."  It is actually Chronic Persistent Hunger that 850 million people suffer from.
I affirm that we all accept that caution plays a big part in how much we give and who we give too. Nevertheless, caution doesn't always help, as I have indicated.
I think that all readers realize that this debate is certainly about each and all charities. In the same sense, it is targeting both the broad and the narrow, and I have definitively proved that there are, indeed, hundreds of charities that one should not be morally obligated to donate to - for whatever reason. If one is not morally obligated to donate to these, then it stands to reason that one is not morally obligated to donate at all.
"3) There is no morally relevant difference between situations where people are suffering and dying nearby, where we can directly help them, and far away, where we cannot. This one is more likely to be contentious. So now to go into the lovely realm of thought experiments:"
My opponent, in round 2, creates a touching exemplar about a man named Steve. However, this correlation is really a fallacy, since spontaneously, physically and heroically saving a child in imminent danger is much different than proffering forth a large portion of money necessary to one's comfortable livelihood in the hope of possibly saving a child overseas - perhaps the money won't make any difference? What if the child is shot by a rebel in Somalia mere minutes after s/he consumed the money you gave (in food or whatever manner)?
Therefore, there is a large difference. As I carefully concluded in Round 3, one's money may or may not even help to save somebody. There are thousands of scenarios of what could happen to your money, and so would it not be better to ensure that your own children have a future?
Let me introduce to the readers a concept called Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The first "needs" that it addresses are physiological: sustenance, water, housing, sleep, good air, sanitation etc. These are all relatively easy to obtain in our society, and so there is a next level called, "Safety and security." These encompass job security, financial security, health and well being. These aren't nearly as easy to obtain, and many people must expend copious quantities of money battling for their own health, much less that of the people overseas. In the United States, thousands of people have become bankrupted due to prolonged medical bills and treatments. The next three stages are love and belonging (affordable, pending on the woman. ; ) ha ha, sorry... :P ), esteem and self actualization. My opponent suggests that we cut corners in obtaining these very important, "Needs" of our own life simply so that some person who isn't productive may have them.
That brings me to my next two questions. 1. When does it become our responsibility? And 2. Do they even want our help?
When does providing for people who we have never met and who reside in some Himalayan mountain area become our responsibility? Why are they impoverished? Can't they help themselves? Why can't they be productive enough to do so? Why do I have to offer development support? What is the accursed Government doing with all of the nation's money? Why don't they help? Why do we, productive citizens, have to care for non-productive citizens? These are all legitimate questions to which the only fitting answer is, "I work hard, and they do not. I'll pay my taxes and the Government will use a portion of that in development aid." Though, again, our nation needs much work, money and care. For example, Canada has a deficit and there are still gangs, internal strife, polluted water, trafficking of humans, substances and guns etc. Does our moral responsibility not first belong to Canada (or whatever home nation one resided in)?
Do they even want our help? The Taliban surely doesn't. They've made it very clear that once they regain power, they will demolish all (or most) of the "Infidel's" progress. Pakistan sure doesn't, Somalia squanders it, Sierra Leone didn't, Idi Amin in Uganda didn't. It doesn't seem to be a moral responsibility if nobody even wants or dreams of our assistance. Or what if they become dependent on it? Then, one day, we have to stop. That seems worse than the former option - depriving dependent people of aid that they've become used to.
Toby Ord is a most generous man, but his wife is a nurse and also works. Suppose, however, that one person works and has three dependents - they could not afford to give away much at all, barely meeting the bills. Obviously a one bedroom flat isn't going to suffice for the family, and a hard working man must definitely purchase more than one coffee or energizing beverage a week.
Is it frivolous to ensure that one will have a comfortable and enjoyable retirement? To ensure that wife and children live in a comfortable and sustainable manner? Yes, a person could give up the occasional DVD (net worth of $15.00), and donate that insignificant amount to charity, but any more than that seems to be beyond moral responsibility.
Thanks for the debate, Logician. Good luck in the voting. Have fun with Round 4.
2. http://www.bargaineering.com... (Take a look)
Logician forfeited this round.
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