Samaritan's dilemma

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The Samaritan's dilemma is a dilemma in the act of charity. It hinges on the idea that when presented with charity, in some location such as a soup kitchen, a person will act in one of two ways: using the charity to improve their situation, or coming to rely on charity as a means of survival. The term Samaritan's dilemma was coined by economist James M. Buchanan.[1]

The argument against charity frequently cites the Samaritan's dilemma as reason to forgo charitable contributions. It is also a common argument against communism and socialism, claiming that state aid is equivalent to charity, and that the beneficiaries of such aid will become slothful or otherwise negligent members of society.[citation needed]

The dilemma's name is a reference to the biblical Parable of the Good Samaritan.

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Further reading[edit]

  • Buchanan, J. M. (1975): The Samaritan's dilemma. In: Altruism, morality and economic theory. In: E.S. Phelps (ed.), New York: Russel Sage foundation. Pp. 71-85.
  • [1] Johan Lagerlöf, Incomplete Information in the Samaritan’s Dilemma: The Dilemma (Almost) Vanishes, Discussion Paper FS IV 99 - 12, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin, 1999.[unreliable source?]