Everybody’s favorite moral philosopher, Megan McArdle, let’s us in on a little secret…
After all, we’ve* already internalized the notion that advocating taxing other people in order to give their money to someone else is somehow morally akin to charity.
She. Is. Wrong.
Taxing people to fund government run social insurance plans is actually the very opposite of charity.
A) Social Insurance redistributes wealth (this is the notion that I think she finds distasteful) so that risk can be transferred from the individual to taxpayers as a class. At its best, social insurance is universal, uniform and operates without the slightest hint of charity.
B) True charity, in contrast, is most often personal, highly idiosyncratic and usually proclaims both the beneficence of the donor and the deserving-ness (moral or otherwise) of the recipient.
On a morality pop quiz, I would choose (c) A and B
Each is important and each has value but failing to distinguish between them represents a glaring, and perhaps willful misunderstanding of the nature to these virtues.
* Just by the way, who is this “we” she is referring to?
Update: First Rule: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Violation of First Rule…
I’m certainly not eager to raze our current raft of poverty programs on the odds that private groups might keep children from starving.
She said it best…