How must we help Haiti?
It is heart-wrenching watching scenes of destruction and devastation in Haiti. Most people will believe that the international community has some degree of responsibility to help in the response and recovery effort. We have written many times about the demands of justice and the relevance of borders to these demands. In describing a Peter Singer argument, Jake wrote that “distance doesn’t matter morally” for “it makes no moral difference whether the person I can help is a neighbor’s child ten yards from me or a Bengali whose name I shall never know, ten thousand miles away.”
But in some circumstances, particularly when time is of the essence, might distance matter? In the case of Haiti, there is a certain time threshold after which the likelihood of finding survivors in the wreckage and the likelihood of survival for the critically injured significantly decreases. Similarly, food and clean water are urgent necessities for those that have survived. Thus, it is vital for the international community to immediately contribute medical support, search and rescue capabilities and food and water. Given the proximity of the United States and the global delivery capabilities of our government and non-governmental organizations, is there a greater moral demand on us to contribute than other countries?