Robber barons, in reverse
April 22, 2011 6:36 AM Subscribe
What is the moral obligation that the wealthy have towards the less-well-off?
posted by titantoppler to Society & Culture (75 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Let me preface this by saying that I'm a left-of-centre social liberal, insofar as free or subsidised healthcare, social welfare and social safety nets are concerned. However, I am not a US citizen, and so some of its cultural mores may have escaped me.
I believe that the government has a role to play in redistributing wealth from the top to the bottom of the income pyramid. This is done through higher tax rates on the rich and using that income to pay for social programs like Social Security.
What I cannot understand, however, is the implicit expectation that most social liberals I know have. They expect the wealthy to donate their money to the less fortunate and pay significantly higher taxes on their income (as opposed to higher rates, but not prohibitively so). It feels rather opportunistic, as though saying, "Hey, thanks for your hard work in earning that money, now we'll take it."
I understand the need to redistribute income, but sky-high taxation rates and voluntary donations are, to me, a nice gesture on the part of the rich, but certainly I feel there is no moral obligation to do so. I'm not sure I understand this obligation. Why are they expected to do significantly more, as a proportion of their income, than say, a middle-class family, and excoriated if they do not? It has been argued that because it will hurt them in the pocket less (because they can't spend that much anyway), but it seems patently unfair to me that they are being asked to do contribute significantly more, and are castigated if they refuse, even though they earned that money (in this instance I'm thinking along the lines of self-made men like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs et al).
P.S. Mods, I'm not sure if this strays too much towards chatfilter, but if it does, please feel free to delete it. No hard feelings, promise.