I would like to get a better understanding of the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty. By wealth I mean the situation where one has resources as opposed to one that does not.

Consider the following situations:

A1. A man sits at a table filled with food
A2. A man sits at a table filled with food while next to him is a human starving next to him. The human next to him is weak and on crutches (to signify how poverty can be limiting in range and mobility)

B1. A man sitting in the park has a bucket of water
B2. A man sitting in the park has a bucket of water while there is a human next to him who is on fire

C1. There is a group with access to large amounts of water and food
C2. There is a group with access to large amounts of water and food while there is a human on fire and a human starving next to them

I would gather that if you asked people if the situation listed in the first list item was in any way right or wrong then they would say there is nothing wrong with a person eating or drinking.

But if you asked people about the second list item they would say that is something wrong.

  1. Is there a name for this situation? Is it negligence, indifference?
  2. What if, deity forbid, in the second list item the human was an infant?
  3. And is there laws around this?
  4. Would anything change if the individuals that have resources have access to a vast abundance of resources?

FYI I've list four interrelated questions but answers to any of them would prove helpful.

I wrote "what is the ethic response" but I meant to write "what is the ethical / unethical" response. Once I know this I want to know basically, if there is a discussion around if it is wrong to let someone die who you have the power to help. I know there are some legally obligations to help or not help (good samaritan law) but I still don't know the names or concepts that already exist around this scenario. Or the argument I was only doing my job the Nazis used during WWII. So far the argument is legal right and wrong but specieial (species related) right or wrong.

1 Answer 1


Some words that may describe the concept you seek:

  • charity: if the resources are given freely to the poor

  • noblesse oblige: formally, the belief that nobility has a responsibility to others in society, including the poor; informally, the belief that all rich people have this responsibility.

  • social justice: if you believe people are poor due to circumstances beyond their control, society has an obligation to help them

  • social welfare: the belief that society has an obligation to help the poor, regardless of why they are poor

Many religions make giving to the poor mandatory:

and many others regard it as a virtue.

Many countries also tax the rich to support the poor through social programs

To summarize, the concept that the rich have a religious, moral and legal duty to help the poor exists in many forms with many names.

  • Thanks. Upvoted. I've updated the question to include "ethical and unethical" so I can get a description of the unethical response as well. But maybe the same terms exist like for example, "social injustice". Oct 14, 2017 at 15:00
  • 1
    Most people don't think of themselves as unethical, so are you looking for reasons people use to not give to the poor (or give less to the poor), such as social Darwinism, "welfare mothers", punishment, etc?
    – user935
    Oct 14, 2017 at 17:55
  • Yes. Along those lines... Oct 16, 2017 at 21:17

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