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It is common for those on the left to assert that the wealthiest should give up some of their billions to help those in need, as such a sacrifice would not drastically affect the amount of money they have. For example: "That rich person can live without a fourth yacht!" In other words, to live in excessive luxury while there are others without basic subsistence is wrong. As human beings, they claim, we have a duty to help each other out, in the same way other animals have been observed to do when in groups (i.e. animals are known to show altruistic behavior; why do humans deviate from that?). What is the best way to respond to these claims?

asked Sep 06 '12 at 13:38

user890's gravatar image


How much is excessive ? Who determines excessive? A thief could argue that your iPad is "excessive" (you already have a laptop and he does not) and grab it from you and run. Is that moral? A villager in Africa may say that your home is "excessive" luxury since many people there live in 100 sq ft huts. These are just examples but the core theme is: are you entitled to the fruits of your own labors or are you an animal yoked to a plow to provide values for others? Do you own your life or are you pledged to a tribe, team, group etc. ?

(Sep 07 '12 at 10:36) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

A need is not a claim to something of value.

I would ask:"I'm sure you have many things which you do not need. Does that mean that I have a right to take them from you and give them to someone who really needs them? You don't really need that shirt, do you, when there are so many people in the world without shirts?"

It is hard to create and earn values. It is easy to become needy. Why should a needy person have any right to what was created or earned by another? If we hold that need implies a right to take, then a lack of effort becomes the means by which values are obtained.

Of course, values are created by means of effort. So, the result is that those who do not create end up with a right to take from those who do create.

The luxury of the rich employs the middle class and poor. Speed boats must be built. Fine wines must be made from grapes which are grown and bottled. Table cloths must be woven and dyed. Fine food must be prepared.

An honest man wants a job -- not free stuff at the expense of the rich. The freedom to become rich, and stay rich, is what motivates every person to improve his life and produce things which benefit everybody. If Steve Jobs had not been allowed to keep anything he didn't need, he would have had no extra money to invest in business. The iPhone might not have come to be.

The ability to own property beyond what is needed creates the freedom and motivation to innovate. In a world where "surplus" property is confiscated, no-one wants to produce more than they need for themselves. The standard of living deteriorates, and people actually die, because they don't have any wealth saved away for a rainy day, and the wealth-"redistribution" (need-response) system isn't reliable or fast.

Every man has a right to keep what he honestly creates or earns, no matter how much more that is than anyone else. Targeting the most productive people, out of a supposed love for those who are much less productive, is an indication of a belief that human productiveness is a vice rather than a virtue, and that a lack of productiveness is a virtue rather than a vice.

Most opponents of the above viewpoint will claim that it takes no cognizance of innocent people in need. It just "lets them die."

The premise behind this is that "needy" people are somehow seconds away from death, and that being helped by others is their only means of survival.

But this is a false scenario. "Need" as such, isn't generally a "get it now or die" thing. A need is a means to a presumed-important value. For instance, when my car gets a blow-out, I need a new tire. But do I really need the car? Yes, if I want to get to work on time.

Some might argue: "There are basic needs and there are conditional needs." In other words, needs you always really need and needs you have only under certain conditions. Basic needs are things like food, shelter, clothing, etc.

But, I argue, there are different qualities of the values which satisfy basic needs. For shelter, there are trees, tents, cars, mobile homes, apartments, duplexes, and detached homes. Just how much shelter is really needed?

The point is, any "need", when the situation is not "get it now or die" is really just a desire, dressed up with some feeling of urgency.

Everyone has desires, and wants to get them met. "Need"-mongers claim that the desires of the needy are more important than the desires of the wealthy, and that therefore the desires of the needy should override the desires of the wealthy. This is simply false.

What's important is to uphold property rights, for the sake of those who own the property. To override property rights, on the policy that the needy are more important, is to destroy the foundation of a peaceful, productive, prosperous, happy society.

answered Sep 07 '12 at 13:34

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

edited Sep 07 '12 at 14:38

The question asks "what is the best way to respond to the claim that the wealthiest don't need that much money?"

There are many ways one could respond to this. The collectivist who posits this claim necessarily does not accept Ayn Rand's conception of individual rights and their inviolability, so any response that touches on individual rights and the initation of force is probably a good start. The claim is also predicated on the altruistic notion that moral individuals sacrifice themselves to others. A refutation of altruism in one form or another would also be appropriate.

I think one good concise response would be to say, "Men have the right to their own lives and their pursuit of happiness is a path chosen by the individual, not the collective."

answered Sep 06 '12 at 14:01

JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

JK Gregg ♦

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Asked: Sep 06 '12 at 13:38

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Last updated: Sep 07 '12 at 14:38