About 23% of the global population lives in absolute poverty. In developing countries there is a low life expectancy, a high infant mortality rate, high levels of unemployment and illiteracy, nutritional levels below acceptable standards and widespread disease with very little or poor quality medical assistance. Others live incredibly wealthy and luxurious lives and so the wealth is distributed in a very unequal manner. These are the central problems to questions of charity though charity also includes many other areas such as assisting the elderly.
We all applaud when very rich people pledge to give away most of their billions, but they are usually left with millions to pass on, still much more than most people would expect to earn in their lifetime. Even comparatively moderate salaries in the west are very high when compared globally. Someone on £20,000 could easily afford to give away £2,000 per year and still have plenty to live on and some luxuries
Most people agree that giving to charity is morally praiseworthy but charitable behaviour tends to be labelled supererogatory or above and beyond the call of duty. Some argue, however, that charitable behaviour is morally required. This means that to fail to behave charitably would be wrong. The majority of arguments in this vein refer to giving aid to poorer nations but they may also refer to giving time within one’s immediate community. Arguments tend to place different requirements on people in different income brackets and exclude entirely people who are merely making ends meet. Some argue that people should all contribute a certain percentage of their earnings. I will group together all those arguments that place a moral requirement on people to give to charity, despite the fact that there is wide disagreement as the extent of that moral requirement.
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