"Lifeboat Ethics" Dilemma Will Be Posed By WuFlu-Driven African Exodus

Article author: 
John Derbyshire
Article publisher: 
Article date: 
25 April 2020
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 
Africa is young. The median age in Kenya is 20; in Nigeria, 18; in Niger, fifteen. Median age in the USA is 38; in Switzerland 42; in Japan 47. The virus wreaks most havoc among old people.
Lately, though, I've been reading stories about the economic impact on Africa of all the lockdowns and slowdowns in the developed world provoked by the WuFlu.
On remittances, for example—money sent back to the home countries in Africa by Africans working in Europe, America, or the Middle East. Nigeria gets $24 billion a year from remittances; as people are laid off in the host countries, the World Bank says that number will drop by a quarter....
It's cruel to say it, but you can't help suspect that as the virus seeps out from the elites to the common folk [in Africa], the gloating will likely turn into something nastier.
The phrase hovering in my mind here is "lifeboat ethics." We're talking about a billion people here, most of them at a low standard of living in badly-governed countries. Serious widespread economic collapse might send a lot of them—and a lot of a billion is a lot—fleeing to refugee camps, or across the Mediterranean—perhaps even across the Atlantic.
With our own countries in recession, our own people clamoring for help, and fears of contagion, shall we keep up our open-handed policy to refugees when refugee numbers swell into the tens of millions?
Will the Europeans continue to tolerate Refugee Racket charities unloading Africans in the ports of Italy, Spain, and Greece?...


Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor, by Garrett Hardin, Psychology Today, September 1974.
Living on a lifeboat, by Garrett Hardin, 1974. This article appeared in BioScience, vol 24(10), pp. 561-568 and in The Social Contract, Fall 2001 issue. Currently available in Stalking the Wild Taboo.
Living Within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos, Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0195093852. (352p). Wonderfully rich in clear logic, original ideas and insights. Received the 1993 Award in Science from the Phi Beta Kappa Society.