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Obligations not Compulsions

I was talking to a family friend last month, and the general trend of the conversation dealt with a kind of obligation versus compulsion topic. When you have a reasonable amount of resources, do you have an obligation to "give something back" to society? And, does it automatically follow, then, that society can or should compell you to give it back? I think this debate lies at the heart of many of the problems that the two ends of the political spectrum have in relating to each other. Libertarians, shut up.

The concept of giving something back is a tough one, because society didn't give me jack, I earned it. Isn't that the American way? We are rugged individualists, right? So, if nobody ever gave me anything, how can I be giving it back? And, if they gave it to me, it's mine now so nobody should expect it back. For any X called "it." :-)

In my view, though, if I have a lot of stuff and can afford to help someone else out, it is morally repugnant to not help them. The specifics of how and who I would help are up to the giver, obviously. In my mind, to help future generations, I like to donate money to the Nature Conservancy. Direct action groups like NC are my preferred way to do things, because I distrust lobbying groups and Political Action Committees. The PACs, to me, fly in the face of that rugged individualism. If some big group takes my message to some other big group, it just doesn't feel very personal to me. And, in fine libertarian tradition, charitable giving is all about the giver.

So, the lefties will say, if it is a moral imperative to give back when you have been lucky enough to not struggle, then it must follow that some people won't want to give anything back. Those people should be forced to help others, for their own good. A rising tide lifts all boats and all that rot. Not in my mind. Yes, I believe everyone who has the means should help others. But, I also firmly believe that forcing someone to give is not a good thing. This compulsory redistribution of wealth just encourages class warfare, and the rich keep finding ways to stop giving a fair share, much less a generous share.

More later, I have to work...

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