HERE’S A MORAL QUESTION FOR YOU
Updated: Mar 26
Do you think economic relations between people should be based on mutual agreement, or on coercion applied by one person on another?
I'm assuming you think such relations should be based on mutual agreement.
Now let's consider that somebody--call the person, say, Charles-- proposes that you give him a product or service that you labor to produce, and in exchange he gives you nothing, absolutely nothing.
Would you agree to do that?
Let's assume that Charles is a perfectly mentally and physically fit young man. What would you say to him, "Yes" or "No"? I'm guessing you'd say, "No." Right?
What if Charles, still assumed to be a perfectly mentally and physically fit young man, were asking for something from you that he needed in order to enjoy some minimum level of comfort and health, but his proposal was still to give you nothing, absolutely nothing, in exchange? In other words, Charles in this scenario was perfectly capable of having produced something useful to you to give you in exchange (or something he could have bartered with somebody else to obtain something useful to you to give you in exchange), but his proposal was to give you absolutely nothing. To his proposal would you say, "Yes" or "No"? I'm guessing you'd feel no moral obligation to say, "Yes" and would very likely therefore say, "No." Right?
Even if, for some reason, you said, "Yes" to Charles in this scenario, what would you say to your friend when Charles approached him with the same proposal, and your friend replied, "No"? Would you tell your friend he behaved immorally? I'm guessing not. Right?
But what if the scenario is different? What if Charles were asking for something from you that he needed in order to enjoy some minimum level of comfort and health, and he ALSO happened to be, for some physical or mental reason, genuinely incapable of producing anything useful to you (or anything he could barter for something useful to you) to give to you in exchange? Would you then think it was reasonable for Charles to make his request of you, and would you agree to provide the product or service if you were able to do so with a reasonable amount of labor and without great harm to yourself? I'm guessing you would say, "Yes," to his proposal, right?
Let's think about what this means for how the economy of a society can be based on mutual agreements.
If the people in a society who produce its useful goods and services with their labor respond to proposals the way I guessed you'd respond to Charles in these different scenarios, then that society would be based on mutual agreements consistent with the egalitarian principle of "From each according to reasonable ability, to each according to need or reasonable desire with scarce things equitably rationed according to need."
Let's say you were living in such an egalitarian society, and a perfectly mentally and physically fit Charles said this to you: "You are morally obliged to give me X that you labored to produce because I need it to enjoy a minimum level of comfort and health, even though I will give you absolutely nothing in exchange. I demand that you give me X."
And let's say that some other acquaintance of yours, who knew what Charles said to you, told you, "You really are morally obliged to give Charles what he wants because enjoying a minimum level of comfort and health is the right of all, even of free loaders like Charles." What would you reply to this acquaintance? Would you say, "Gee, I guess you're right." Or would you say, "I disagree."
If you replied, "Gee, I guess you're right," then you would be rejecting the egalitarian principle and instead following the anti-egalitarian principle, "From those who contribute reasonably according to ability, to those who refuse to contribute reasonably according to ability whatever they need." This can also be termed the "Free Loaders Paradise" principle, of course.
As I discuss below, the egalitarian principle is what the vast majority of people agree with. The anti-egalitarian principle is strongly opposed by many, perhaps most, people. A good society can thus be based on mutual agreements consistent with the egalitarian principle, but not with the anti-egalitarian principle.
So. Do you believe that X (whatever it is) is the right of all?
Please read the following linked articles to help you decide: