Libertarianism and Charity aren’t incompatible

Regarding this post by mupetblast at TGGP’s Entitled to an Opinion.

I simply do not understand the people who claim or imply that libertarianism is an ‘evil’ philosophy. Or rather, I’m pretty sure I understand the motivations and purposes of most people who claim that – it’s the few who actually and sincerely believe it that I can’t quite grasp. But the idea itself is an absurdity.

To further the example brought up in the comments:

Is there anything in Libertarianism that would preclude Ebenezer Scrooge from taking his money and using it to buy the Cratchits a lovely Christmas meal? Anything? It’s his money, he can spend it how he likes, and I fail to see anything objectionable about purchasing food or delivering it to people.

We can debate whether any given charitable intervention is effective and helpful. We can even debate whether charity as a concept does more good than harm – I don’t consider that question to be a simple one – but at least in our fictional example it would seem to have done a great deal of ‘good’. So what’s the problem?

Libertarianism concerns itself with private property, individual rights, and the relationship of the individual to the state generally. It really has nothing beyond those points to say about the interaction of individuals. Like Cratchit and Scrooge.

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3 Responses to “Libertarianism and Charity aren’t incompatible”

  1. nazgulnarsil Says:

    as time passes I’m more and more convinced that everything is simply cultural. Ideology doesn’t matter because only the intellectual elite have an ideology.

  2. nazgulnarsil, are you referring to Phi Converse’s theory?

    David Henderson on Scrooge:
    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2010/12/krugman_misstat_1.html
    Steve Landsburg on Scrooge:
    http://www.slate.com/id/2110817/

  3. Michael Says:

    Let us be careful to distinguish charity from entitlement. The Abrahamic religions advocate charity because of its claimed spiritual benefit to the giver. The material benefit to the recipient, or indeed his worthiness, are not very significant. The essence of the spiritual benefit to the giver lies in the voluntary nature of his gift. If it is compulsory, it is not charity – it is an exaction, and not a gift. Charity is man’s imitation of God’s mercy. Indeed, Catholicism commends charitable giving as a “corporeal work of mercy.”

    The welfare state does not proceed from notions of charity, but from those of entitlement. Under it, people are asserted to have positive rights to such things as food, clothing, shelter, medicine, education, etc. There is no expectation that these must be obtained by their own efforts; though in most cases they are, when they are not, they are provided through compulsory takings from others. Whereas charity is a means to the end of spiritual benefit, the exactions of the welfare state serve both as means to deliver entitlements to material benefit, and to bring about equality in the distribution of wealth, which is an end in itself.

    Like you, I do not see anything in libertarianism that conflicts with charity as traditionally understood – a private and voluntary action. Its conflict is with the state compulsion on which the concept of entitlement depends.

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