Aid doesn\’t do all that much good a lot of the time but it\’s cheap so we should still do it.
In The Life You Can Save, Singer acknowledges that some aid goes astray, and that some aid is not very effective. But he turns that argument on its head: so what, if the cost to you has been so little – only the price of a meal in a restaurant or a new pair of shoes? Such is the affluence of the west, arguments about the cost of aid are irrelevant – we can afford it.
Sure, we can indeed afford it. But that isn\’t the important question.
The important question is whether aid overall* does good or does bad. What if it were that aid actually had a deleterious effect on the recipients? Just because it\’s cheap to do people harm doesn\’t mean that we should be causing them harm now, does it?
* Please note that I\’m not talking about emergency aid here at all. Feed the starving etc I\’m all for. I\’m talking rather about development aid.