We’re quite accomplished at that here in the United States. I wonder, do you actually feel good when you have to impose force in order to get people to do something? Is it really altruism, when for example, if tax dollars are collected to provide food for the hungry? It may be morally correct, from a broad perspective, but I am asking the question of whether and why folks think such things count as “charity.”
Unless freely chosen, an act has no individual moral component. None.
Which brings me to my point today. When we are in the business of imposing altruism via policy, why do we do it in the forms that we do. For example, take the Endangered Species Act – an act that in principle I suspect many people across the political spectrum agree with. The way it works in practice however is that nearly the entire burden of species protection is forced upon a single or small group of people who have interaction with the Endangered Species. But, if “we” all benefit from such protections, then why are we exempted from the rules and costs of the ESA?
Or take policy that more of you are familiar with: kidney donations. We have it is a matter of religion that people should be forced to give away, for free, a piece of their body in order to help someone in need of a kidney. Keep in mind that the kidney itself is nowhere near the most scarce and most expensive part of the entire procedure. The hospital space and time is far more scarce. The nurses, doctors, anesthesiologists, etc. are far more scarce. Yet, I’ve NEVER seen a serious argument that doctors should be forced to perform kidney transplant surgeries for free. I tell you what, I’ll get off my “free-markets in organs” high horse when I see anti-market people pass legislation that requires every kidney operation to be done pro-bono by ALL parties involved. We know why that will never happen.
Or take social justice labor market legislation like the minimum wage. Why is it that the entire burden of supporting low-skilled workers is being foisted upon entrepreneurs? Those entrepreneurs are of course about the only people actually doing anything for low wage workers. Indeed, when an entrepreneur pays a worker even below some desired minimum wage, that is far more than I am currently doing. But heck, any entrepreneur that hires anyone is doing more good than the rest of us – by raising the demand for labor generally, they help keep wages higher than they otherwise would be. Why do they get singled out for special “treatment?” Indeed, I will support increases in the minimum wage when they come along with legislation that requires that x% of the people currently working MUST quit their jobs AND not accept government assistance. Why? In a short-term, zero-sum (i.e. not realistic) view of the world, when I choose to work, I am supplying additional labor, and allowing greedy firms to keep wages lower. So, just as wages at Burger King skyrocketed in New Orleans after Katrina due to the scarcity of workers, let’s create that scarcity by law – why shouldn’t current workers who are already “responsible” for “forcing” the wages of the low-skilled down to unacceptable levels, be responsible for this social policy? At the very least, why shouldn’t current workers, if you don’t want to fire them, be required to pay an extra tax on their wages that goes into the “minimum wage” pool? Let’s go further, let’s have all unions have a levy added to their annual union dues in order to support the plight of low-wage workers. Again, we know why this will never happen.