What About the Poor?

by | Mar 11, 2013

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. […]

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 is the founder of the Texas Institute for Property Rights. Brian has been defending property rights for nearly thirty years. He played a key role in defeating zoning in Houston, Texas, and in Hobbs, New Mexico. He is the author of three books: Individual Rights and Government Wrongs, The Innovator Versus the Collective, and Principles and Property Rights. Visit his website at texasipr.com.

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