In a recent Wall Street Journal essay, "Generational Theft Needs to be Arrested," three men advanced some suggestions to Republicans. Their main focus was the need for Republicans to address what they, following others who have chimed in on the topic, have criticized as current members of the public robbing future members of their resources by means of various welfare statist policies, specifically accumulating massive debts that those in the future have no opportunity to vote on, to argue against, and to oppose.
Their suggestion is to be applauded but as they phrased it the cautionary message contains a major flaw. At one point the three men assert that, "The government has an obligation, of course, to support needy seniors." They do not qualify this by saying that the obligation is a legal one. Rather they leave it unqualified, suggesting something that is completely false, namely, that the government and by implication the citizens, have a moral obligation to support needy seniors.
Now, it is of course plain, common sense morality that younger folks ought to make provisions for their older relatives, seniors, who are needy. That would arise from familial ethics but even that does not amount to a legally binding obligation. It is a matter of ethics, which has to be something freely followed; otherwise, it isn't something praiseworthy at all. And strangers have no such moral obligation.
To put it rather plainly, younger Americans are not to be placed in involuntary servitude to older ones. If they choose to give their support to older Americans – or, indeed, older people anywhere on Earth – that can be a worthy thing for them to do. But it has to be on their terms, not terms others impose on them and certainly not by their political representatives. Clearly there is no end to those who could demand their support if such an obligation existed for all young people! What government must do, as spelled out clearly in the Declaration of Independence, is to secure the rights of all the citizens to be free to do the peaceful things they have decided to do, period.
Believing in welfare statist obligations, via the government's taxing authority, is clearly tyrannical. It also leads to a flood of claims on the labor and resources of young people! Needy seniors are just one special interest group that will stand ready to be beneficiaries of this servitude. Farmers, artists, students and millions of other needy people will insist – indeed, many already do insist – that they, too, be provided with support.
Such parasitism is totally contrary to the principles of a bona fide free society. In such a society citizens will often volunteer to help one another but not as a matter of some unchosen obligation but out of generosity, kindness and now and then out of charity.
If Republicans believe that young people are legally obligated to support needy seniors how can they resist the call of a constantly expanding welfare state? How can they deny anyone the support they need to pursue goals they deem important? There is no way. And the logical implication is that saying no to any group in society, denying them support from others, is morally wrong, cruel, heartless, just as many politicians claim it is.
But that is simply false. Some people do have a morally valid claim on the help of young people but not all do. We are not all friends and family! Spreading the idea that we are is hopeless and ultimately cruel. It leads to false expectations and in the last analysis bankruptcy – exactly where most welfare states are today around the globe.
Morality is a valid consideration in how we relate to one another but it must be a reasonable morality, not a blind, reckless idealism.