Question: Should I, as an Objectivist, donate money to help them? I know that need is not a moral claim, but I do feel a lot of sympathy for people who have suffered so much, when it's not at all their fault. Would my donating money really help them?
Answer: Ayn Rand held that charity is not a major virtue. Objectivism holds that how you spend your money is your business. Your ultimate moral aim should be to sustain your life and achieve happiness. With that goal in mind, spend your money in ways that add to your happiness and that do not constitute sacrifices of goals of greater value to oneself. (See "The Ethics of Emergencies" in The Virtue of Selfishness for more on this.)
In this context, aiding disaster victims can be a fine way to experience greater happiness and reduce one's sympathetic suffering by alleviating to some degree the suffering of those sympathized with. While it would be wrong to give aid to people suffering due to severe moral failings, the victims of unusual disasters like the Indian Ocean Tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004 are innocent, and they deserve rational sympathy.
As an Objectivist, you should feel no qualm about giving aid to these unfortunate people, and as in all matters, you should consult your personal hierarchy of values to decide how much, if any, aid it would suit you to give.
You may also want to investigate the charitable options available to you. Not all charitable organizations are equally efficient, and not every organization seeking your donation is legitimate. You can find useful information at Charity Navigator , Charity Watch , Give.org , and at the Capital Research Center .
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