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An Analogy about a Village

I believe it was One World Now, by Peter Singer, where I first read the analogy summarized below.


Most reasonable people come to the same conclusions:

  • The person that has produced the most waste should contribute the most effort in cleaning it up.

  • Although it is a move in the right direction, a villager who has reduced his waste but has still thrown more in the ditch than his neighbor, is still more responsible for the mess.

The analogy - as I remember it, continues...


The irony here is that the villagers most affected by the problem are very likely both those with the fewest means to solve it - if the villager living next to the dump had more money or resources, they would have likely moved somewhere else - and the ones least responsible. Conversely, the villager with the greatest ability to solve the problem, has the least incentive to fix the problem... Though he caused it, he is least affected as his house sits atop a hill, far away from the smell.

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