The Brother's Keeper Bill
By Bryan Caplan
Suppose someone proposed a “Brother’s Keeper Bill.” According to this BKB, people earning at least double the poverty line would be financially obliged to give 20% of their income to any sibling earning less than the poverty line.
I doubt many people would support this bill. If you asked them “Why not?,” here are some of the reasons they’d be most likely to profess:
1. The atomistic individualist response: “It’s not your problem if your sibling is poor.”
2. The libertarian response: “Maybe you should help your sibling, but no one should force you.”
3. The moral hazard response: “This would give poorer siblings incentives to fail.”
4. The donor incentive response: “This would reduce richer siblings’ incentives to work.”
5. The work ethic response: “Money doesn’t grow on trees. The richer siblings usually earned their extra income with hard work and prudence, and the poorer siblings usually deserve their lower income because they’re lazy and impulsive.”
6. The meritocratic response: “Richer siblings deserve their higher income because they produced more than their poorer siblings.”
7. The Puritanical response: “People shouldn’t have to support people if they disapprove of their lifestyle and choices.”
8. The evasive response: “Richer siblings should be able to refuse to help their poorer siblings without having to provide an explanation.”
9. The debt response: “You don’t owe your siblings anything.”
You probably know where I’m going with this, but let me be blunt. Question: If any of these are good arguments against being legally required to financially help your siblings, why aren’t they equally good arguments against being legally required to financially help total strangers?
P.S. A Parent’s Keeper Bill, requiring the well-off to financially support low-income parents, would probably be almost as unpopular than the Brother’s Keeper Bill. Question for PKB opponents: If you shouldn’t be legally obligated to financially help the parents who gave you life, why on earth should you be legally obligated to financially help total strangers?!