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The Poverty as an Ethical Issue


There have been arguments that politicians prefer their constituents to remain poor in order to manipulate them easily. Although an unfortunate explanation, one can argue that the premise is true due to the fact that vulnerable people are easily manipulated due to their desperation. They will literally do anything they can in order to afford their basic needs. This is especially the case if they have families.

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When looking at poverty as an ethical issue, one also has to consider the fact that there are people who control resource distribution, which then ideally leads to wealth or poverty within a community. It is arguable that the burden of deciding whether a decision is ethical or not is carried by these individuals. The fact that many countries today are still struggling with managing extreme poverty goes to show the complexity of the issue.

Mill’s Utilitarianism Perspective

Kant’s argument enhances the argument that people can at times be too poor to think about morality. This is due to the fact that they are desperate and will do anything to get their basic needs. For example, a poor man will steal in order to feed his family.

To explain further, one can argue that the theory supports the taxation of both rich and poor people despite the fact that the latter is in a more desperate situation than the former. This is acceptable and deemed moral despite the fact that it can also lead to an increase in poverty as it is for the benefit of the greater community. The subscribers of this theory agree, therefore, that total eradication of poverty is impossible, This is interesting considering the fact that many governments pledge to attempt to eradicate poverty during their tenures. Rightfully, some countries and organizations agree that whereas total eradication of poverty is not possible, total eradication of extreme poverty can be achieved.

Kant’s Deontological Ethics Perspective

Normally, people partake in activities due to the possibility of relating consequences. These consequences can be either monetary or otherwise. For example, a person can help another individual get a job at his or her company so that he or she can get kick-backs. According to Kant, this is morally wrong. However, one can help a person in order to make that person feel obliged to help him or her later on in life if he or she finds him/herself in a similar situation.

Kant’s understanding can be used to explain why wealthy people should be taxed more than poor people. As the wealthy percentage of the community, it is their obligation to ensure that the entire community thrives. A community that has extremely poor people cannot thrive due to the complications associated with poverty such as crime. The perspective expects that an action that is morally wrong can still lead to a morally right consequence. In such situations, the morally wrong action should then be considered ethical. In relation to the ethics of poverty, one can state that a poor person is allowed to be corrupt in order to escape poverty.

Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics Perspective

Aristotle’s virtue ethic perspective stresses using virtues such as generosity to eliminate poverty in society. This also applies to the government of the day to distribute wealth equally between the poor and the rich since this is the moral thing to do.

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Aristotle suggests poverty be the derivation of crime and civil unrest. For a country to be at peace it has to strike a balance between the poor and the rich. This can only be done by providing for the poor.


Mill’s Utilitarianism suggests that obligation to help the poor should be encouraged since it is a moral thing to do and thus will bring happiness to a person. But most people who believe in Mill’s Utilitarianism are alive to the fact that some level of poverty is acceptable and will always be there. Kant’s Deontological Ethics Perspective suggests that if one feels obliged to help someone poor they should do it in such a way that they do not expect that person to reciprocate later.

Using Kant’s theory, a good result will not fault for the way it was achieved. Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics Perspective implies that wealth should be distributed equally between the rich and the poor. It further suggests that the government is obliged to distribute the wealth equally among the two groups. Aristotle’s theory also implies that poverty is the source of criminal activities and can lead to civil unrest thus it should be eliminated.


Barrett, H. D., Ortmann, L. W., Dawson, A., Saenz, C., Reis, A., & Bolan, G. (2016). Public health ethics: Cases spanning the globe. Springer

Velasquez, M. (2016). Philosophy: A text with readings. Cengage Learning

Kant, I. (2020). The Critique of practical reason. BoD – Books on Demand

White, M. D. (2019). Batman and Ethics. John Wiley & Sons

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'The Poverty as an Ethical Issue'. 14 January.

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