A group of students in Auburn University’s Introduction to Political Philosophy course recently applied their learning to the issue of hunger. The assignment was to explore: To what extent is the problem of hunger in America a problem of justice? In addition to the philosophy, some students drew on journalistic sources, while others wrote about their service learning experiences.
Professor Nina Brewer-Davis submitted the work of six students to be highlighted on the blog. Each chose a paragraph that they feel particularly represents their paper, and you can follow the links below to read the full versions.
There are many issues with the way hunger is viewed and treated in America, and the current justice system only adds to the stigmas of hunger. Hunger in America is a hidden problem in society that is also a demoralizing experience for people who are constantly searching for food. Some areas of the justice system fail to assist people who are in need of food because it only creates temporary solutions to hunger rather than long-term solutions. The system also lacks in its ability to help people transition from the lower to middle class, and this makes it difficult for people to achieve financial progress in their lives. Hunger in America is a problem of justice because society is not properly structured to help those in need, and this issue calls for social solutions.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of justice” (BBC News Online). In order to seek an end to the hunger epidemic, there must be a commitment to seek justice for all. Although Nozick provides a guide to achieve this goal, one cannot help but to question his ability to analyze the bigger picture, which stresses the moral and societal obligation one has to another. This is a worldwide concern that can only be solved by both the provider and receiver uniting to discover the best possible solution for both parties. Until this takes place, it will be an ongoing problem with one party suffering—usually the receiver.
Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia provides a model of government that respects the rights of citizens while producing a just distribution. The United States government follows this model of government closely, and the poverty in the U.S. is not the result of unjust laws. Any person who acquires a resource by a fair and just manner is entitled to this resource. Citizens in the U.S. acquire resources through fair means. Any government redistribution program is therefore unjust because it takes away property that citizens have worked for.
The current methods of combating hunger are largely ineffective in the long-term. Through the application of Robert Nozick’s concepts of justice, namely historical principles and side-constraints, it is possible that hunger in America can be successfully reduced while also preserving the dignity of those involved. While hunger is not strictly a problem of justice, it is important that ideas and processes intended to manage hunger take principles of justice into account.
Our unequal distribution of resources is justified only by progressive taxation and effective hunger relief programs. However, a close examination of our society’s redistribution programs reveals them to be inadequate. Therefore, a fundamental reevaluation of government hunger relief programs is necessary to achieve Rawls’ ideal notion of justice in our society.
Did you know that 40% of food is thrown out in the US every year, or about $165 billion worth? All of this uneaten food could feed 25 million Americans. As the wealth gap increases in the US, hunger is becoming a greater issue due to the shrinking middle class and increased poverty rates. Rawls’ beliefs suggest that the problem of hunger should be solved only by government regulation and aid. The problem of hunger is a social problem. It is not the government’s duty to solve a social problem. Governmental aid has already proven not to solve the problem of hunger. It is the duty of Americans to help relieve hunger in the US by giving back and volunteering. Both the government and Americans must work together to solve the problem of hunger because without both parties the problem of hunger will not be solved.