A common question, when discussing capitalism, is: What about the poor? In other words, won’t the poor be helpless and hopeless in a capitalist society?

The premise underlying such questions is altruism. According to altruism, we have a moral duty to serve others. According to altruism, we have an obligation to help those in need. But why? Why are we born with an unchosen obligation? Why must we live our lives, not for our enjoyment and benefit, but to serve the destitute and downtrodden? No rational answer has ever been offered, because there is no rational justification for slavery.

Your life is yours to live as you choose, so long as you respect the mutual rights of others. Your only obligations are those you enter of your own choice, such as contracts and having children.

In a capitalist society, if you choose to help the poor and needy, nobody can stop you. But neither can anyone force you to do so.

Americans are extremely generous and benevolent people. Consider the donations to assist victims after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, after Hurricane Katrina, and after the earthquake in Haiti. Consider the hundreds of billions that Americans donate every year to charities.

Wealth cannot be donated until it is produced. Without freedom, wealth cannot be produced. In truth, freedom is the greatest “gift” that we can give the poor. But freedom is not a gift, nor is it ours to dispense. It is everyone’s moral right, including yours.

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Brian Phillips has been actively defending individual rights for the past twenty-five years. He has successfully helped defeat attempts to implement zoning in Houston, Texas, and Hobbs, New Mexico. His writing has appeared in The Freeman, Reason, The Orange County Register, The Houston Chronicle, The Objective Standard, Capitalism Magazine, and dozens of other publications. He is the author of Individual Rights and Government Wrongs

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