Do the wealthy have an obligation to help the poor?

The Great American Think-Off, a philosophy contest run by the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, has announced its debate question for 2010. And it gives us Today’s Question: Do the wealthy have an obligation to help the poor?

Comments texted to MPR:

Yes, but it’s better to let the rich give of their own free will. Forced giving via the government is not true giving and breeds resentment and overdependence. -Chris, Bloomington, MN

The wealthy do not have a special obligation to help the poor – rather, we all have an obligation to help each other. -Sean, Burnsville, MN

The rich have no obligation to give to the poor, but as a practical matter, they would be wise to do so. In any community, a wide disparity in standard of living leads to discontent, and poverty leads to crime; the rich dwell in the same communities, and you would think they would want them to be nicer overall. Moreover, in a democratic society, the govt, being of and for all the people, has an obligation to tax the rich in order to keep communities clean and safe, and to give everyone education and opportunity. History has proven repeatedly that the rich do NOT give sufficiently of their own free will; Alexander Hamilton recognized this, and said something like, ” the reason we need laws is because mankind is greedy and selfish.” ( not exact quote, clearly. You can look it up.) -Natalie Roberts, Edina, MN

Yes the wealthy are part of our great society and bear a greater responsibly. -Andrew, Rochester, MN

Of course there is no obligation… But we should hope there would be the kindness and love for others that compels us to do such things! -anonymous

I think if rich became rich off the poor, say, selling low priced goods to the masses, they should help those who gave them their fortune. -Maggie, Lindstrom, MN

We all have an obligation to help the poor! Yes, including the rich but lower and middle class people when possible also. -Tony Probasco, St Paul, MN

What do you define as ‘giving’? All humanity has a responsibility to give to each other. -Lisa, Howard Lake, MN

Yes the rich do have an obligation to help the poor. Usually the rich will recoup money used to help the poor because the poor have to spend. -Kenny, Grand Rapids, MN