Pooled beneficence

In Michael Almeida (ed.), Imperceptible Harms and Benefits. Dordrecht: Kluwer. pp. 9-42 (2000)
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There can be situations in which, if I contribute to a pool of resources for helping a large number of people, the difference that my contribution makes to any of the people helped from the pool will be imperceptible at best, and maybe even non-existent. And this can be the case where it is also true that giving the same amount directly to one of the intended beneficiaries of the pool would have made a very large difference to her. Can non-contribution to the pool be morally justified on this ground? I argue that it cannot. For, first, this line of thought leaves unaffected any reasons for holding that failing to perform the direct action of benefiting someone greatly would be wrong. But the pooling system of helping people is often better than a system separating the help which is given — better because of the perceptible difference it makes to its beneficiaries. If so, failing to contribute to the pool will be at least as wrong as failing to have helped directly would have been. The paper clarifies and defends an argument of this form, showing how it can be formulated in a way that avoids apparent counterexamples, and identifying the assumptions on which it rests.
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