Carpe Diem

There is no obligation for the successful to “give back to the community,” because there was nothing taken away

From Henry Biswanger writing in Forbes:

It’s time to gore the collectivist sacred cow that the successful are obliged to “give back to the community.” That oft-heard claim assumes that the wealth of high-earners is taken away from “the community.” And beneath that lies the perverted Marxist notion that wealth is accumulated by “exploiting” people, not by creating value–as if Henry Ford was not necessary for Fords to roll off the (non-existent) assembly lines and Steve Jobs was not necessary for iPhones and iPads to spring into existence.

Let’s begin by stripping away the collectivism. “The community” never gave anyone anything. The “community,” the “society,” the “nation” is just a number of interacting individuals, not a mystical entity floating in a cloud above them. And when some individual person–a parent, a teacher, a customer–”gives” something to someone else, it is not an act of charity, but a trade for value received in return.

It was from love–not charity–that your mother fed you, bought clothes for you, paid for your education, gave you presents on your birthday. It was for value received that your teachers worked day in and day out to instruct you. In commercial transactions, customers buy a product not to provide alms to the business, but because they want the product or service–want it for their own personal benefit and enjoyment. And most of the time they get it, which is why they choose to continue patronizing the same businesses.

All proper human interactions are win-win; that’s why the parties decide to engage in them. It’s not the Henry Fords and Steve Jobs who exploit people. It’s the Al Capones and Bernie Madoffs. Voluntary trade, without force or fraud, is the exchange of value for value, to mutual benefit. In trade, both parties gain.

Each particular individual in the community who contributed to a man’s rise to wealth was paid at the time–either materially or, as in the case of parents and friends, spiritually. There is no debt to discharge. There is nothing to give back, because there was nothing taken away.

46 thoughts on “There is no obligation for the successful to “give back to the community,” because there was nothing taken away

  1. File this under “Government mandated morality.”

    But I think this makes a good point. In the private sector, the way to gain wealth is to produce something of value. The Waltons are rich because they provide low-cost consumer goods to poor families. The stock traders are rich because they provide retirement and saving products. Sumner Redstone is rich because he entertains America. I am wealthy (for someone my age) because I provide people with valuable information and forecasts that help keep them (and their employees) in a job. We all have done our part to make the world a better place. And wealth is the reward. To claim that people owe more because they aren’t supporting what some “elite” thinks they should is…well…pathetic.

    But let’s talk a little about morality here. I am going to focus this conversation based upon my religion, so if this doesn’t interest you, stop reading right now.

    As a Christian, I believe it is ones duty to help out a fellow human being whenever they can. It could be as simple as giving your neighbor a cup of sugar or some spare change to the homeless man. It could be donating or working for charity. All of us here are extremely blessed and it is our sacred duty to help wherever we can.

    But, as Christ teaches us, there is a right way and a wrong way to be charitable. The right way is to be anonymous, and to give without the expectation of anything in return. The wrong way is to give publicly, and demand things in return, such as accolades. Those who are humble will be exalted and those who are exalted will be humbled.

    Much of what we see publicly about others demanding other to give more and more of their wealth for arbitrary reasons is nothing more than those seeking to exalt themselves. They wish to beat their breasts and proclaim “look at all the good I do!” They want their names carved upon buildings built with others money and others still sweat. These folks, I do tell you, are no more to be loved than a thief.

    • jon-

      i believe that you left out the most popular wrong way to be charitable:

      vote that government, at the point of a gun and with the threat of incarceration, force someone else to give their money to someone in need, then smugly sit home feeling you have done your good deed and really care about the poor.

    • Jon writes “But, as Christ teaches us, there is a right way and a wrong way to be charitable. The right way is to be anonymous, and to give without the expectation of anything in return.”

      Jon, I disagree about anonymous giving as the right way. Setting an example is a right way and being anonymous is another right way — and they both can have no expectation of anything in return.

      The Gates Foundation is attracting billions more than Melinda and Bill are contributing(double thanks to Warren Buffett). Warren, Melinda and Bill are attracting billions more from the world’s richest.

      • Relative to the money at the disposal of the Gates foundation, they have accomplished surprisingly little. Many organizations with 1/100th the resources, have achieved more.

        The Gates Foundation’s primary purpose is so that Melinda Gates can be someone important, and appear on TV a lot.

        • Toads, polio is completely eradicated in the world; ex Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan due to intimidation of health care professionals. The undeveloped world is getting much healthier thanks to the Gates Foundation and they are just getting started.

          Toads gives nothing but an anonymous smear that is pitiful.

          • Many organizations with a lot less money than the Melinda Gates celeb-program, have done a lot more to eradicate those diseases.

            Your idol-worship is completely devaluing the world of all those less-known charities that have toiled hard for decades.

    • Jon:

      Not only poor families benefit from Walmart.

      Right now I’m sitting in a timeshare in Las Vegas munching on a Lean Pockets purchased at Walmart. Thus leaving me more money to circulate via the slots.

  2. We need to see more and more sensible people counter this “give back to the community” claptrap; I think it began with the “flower-children” counterculture of the 60′s. Some of this mindset is ingrained in many of the for-profit corporate entities. It is my opinion, and others might agree with me, that such organizations have already given to “the community” by setting up shop in it. In fact, private-sector, for-profit organizations keep on giving and giving by continuing to employ individuals in said “community”, and often increasing property values on adjacent lots because of their presence.

    • “We need to see more and more sensible people counter this “give back to the community”

      Keep in mind that women are naturally wired to extract resources from society, and men are wired to not resist this much. Millions of years of evolution went into making men and women this way, except that this obsolete in the modern world since the primary function of humans is no longer to merely produce the maximum number of offspring.

      And while Republicans think of themselves as anti-socialism, they are notorious about jumping to support any and all redistribution from men to women. Show any Republican a young man who does not wish to marry under the preposterously unfair modern laws governing divorce, and most ‘social conservatives’ will attempt to shame the young man using exactly the same tactics of a leftist demanding an 80% tax rate on productive people.

      • If you understand what marriage is, you’re not concerned with divorce law.

        Oh, and what the hell does this have to do with anything anyway?

        • toads has a weird obsession with this idea that women are genetically programmed to want to steal from him.

          it seems to crop up regardless of thread topic.

          some guys, you show then every ink blot in the deck and they say “a woman trying to take my wallet” for all of them. there’s not much you can do about it.

          • Not true. I am merely stating facts.

            You wouldn’t know, as you have never had either a) money or b) a woman attracted to you. So you are unqualified.

          • Jon Murphy,

            You too need to read Dalrock’s blog :

            http://dalrock.wordpress.com

            He goes into great detail exposing how the modern Church has deviated greatly from any semblance of biblical teachings, and is effectively indistinguishable from lefty feminism in all matters except abortion.

            Read up, and attain a clue.

          • Again, stop being a douchebag or go away.

            And, as a Christian and a deacon and one who has devoted considerable amount of time actually studying the Bible, his rants (and they are nothing more than that) are more devoid of substance that Space itself.

            If you want to get into an argument about women and Christianity, fine, but this is neither the time nor the place for this.

            If you want to me an anti-social chauvinist, fine, but take it somewhere else.

            This is a blog post about charity. If you have issues about some woman that broke your heart, take it somewhere else. Go cry to a bartender, that’s what they’re there for. But nobody wants to hear it here.

          • toads-

            QED.

            you sound like a bitter, lonely guy trying to rationalize his inability to attract women by believing that they are all just gold diggers anyhow.

            you likely live in your mom’s basement.

            you bring up this weird obsession of yours, out of context, on thread after thread.

            it’s some sort of weird compulsion and seems like the kind of pathology generally associated with consistent rejection.

        • Juniatakid,

          “If you understand what marriage is, you’re not concerned with divorce law.”

          Your hubris is impressive. You probably were the type who, in the 1700s, might have told blacks that slavery was the natural order of things.

          It is people like you who let unjust laws arise. You apparently don’t know that divorce can be filed unilaterally, and assets taken even from the spouse who did not seek divorce (invalidating your super-naive comment).

          A blog like Dalrock could provide you with the sorely-needed education of how even the Christian Church is now just a center of feminism and misandry.

          Read that blog to educate yourself.

          • “Jon Murphy is right. You’re a clueless doucehbag.”

            yup.

            that gets my vote.

            toads,

            has it occurred to you that your lack of success with the fairer sex might be related to your general misogynist douchbaggery?

            attitudes like your tend to be self fulfilling prophecies.

            here is my prophesy for you:

            you will grow old, alone, in your mom’s basement.

          • “A blog like Dalrock could provide you with the sorely-needed education of how even the Christian Church is now just a center of feminism and misandry.

            Read that blog to educate yourself.”

            remember my comment:

            “some guys, you show then every ink blot in the deck and they say “a woman trying to take my wallet” for all of them. there’s not much you can do about it.”

            thank you for so readily proving me right. you are pretty much just a lampoon of yourself.

            i bet you get that same message from a walk down the cereal aisle or the way rain falls in a puddle.

            seriously, is there anyhting that does not strike this chord in you?

            it does not appear so.

      • It is funny to watch, toads, as so many men trip all over themselves to base themselves before women. Many of the commenters here seem to think it’s just some weird coincidence that government has metastasized into a large, out of control, controlling organization, using the “it’s good for you” rhetoric, after the success of the women’s suffrage movement.

        It is true that women are hardwired to find men who can take care of them. It is true that men are hardwired to want to take care of them. Yet, somehow the recognition of this makes you ignorant of marriage, divorce law, all the other ad hominems that have been thrown your way.

        And your observations about conservatives are correct as well. Somehow, conservatives, and many commenters here, recognize the damaging distortions of incentives due to government intrusion into other areas of life, particularly business, but somehow think that the perverse incentives of family court and divorce law have no affect on how people structure their lives. A good indication of a person blinding themselves to these types of distortions is someone who says “If you understand what marriage is, you’re not concerned with divorce law.” This is like saying “If you understand what business is, you’re not concerned with tax law.”

        For further confirmation, simply look at Tucker Carlson’s reaction Helen Smith’s Men on Strike.

        • ken-

          i think you are greatly mischaracterizing the response.

          speaking for myself, i see no problem discussion the notion that differences in imperatives driven by darwinistic selection for reproductive success are different for men and women and that they can yield different brain structure.

          but when guys like toads crop up on thread after thread spewing the same semi literate rants about it and leavening them with both vitriol and lamentations that you are no longer allowed to take rod to your wife like the bible says and that women no longer promise to “obey” when they marry, it just gets tiresome.

          there is an interesting potential discussion to be had on the topic, just not with toads who seems unable to stop dropping it into unrelated discussions and immediately taking it into ludicrous territory.

          i’m not religious.

          but i would go so far as to say that lamenting the changes in the christian church from the women as chattel days makes someone, as jon so eloquently put it “a douchebag”.

          • morg,

            i think you are greatly mischaracterizing the response.

            Don’t you feel the least bit hypocritical saying that after you completely mischaracterized toads’ comment to mean “that women are genetically programmed to want to steal from him”? I agree an intelligent discussion can be had, but not when people completely mischaracterize others’ comments the way did. Which is too bad. You typically have something intelligent to say, and mostly use logic.

            Also, women were never treated as “chattel” anymore than men were. Feminism, even traditional feminism, is the denial of female psychology and the roots of that psychology in biology. In its wake, the feminist ideology has left a toxic culture that rots, as that ideology has undermined one of the core institutions on which civilization in built: marriage. Instead understanding that marriage is a cooperation between men and women to make a better life for themselves and their children, feminists turned that institution into a battle between the sexes that is a never ending power struggle.

            The feminists only looked up and lamented that men occupied the top. Never did feminists, nor their enablers, look down to see that every culture across history had men at the bottom. Women have always occupied the middle.

            There are good psychological and economic explanations for this societal structure. Feminists’ knee-jerk reaction was that women must be oppressed and treated as chattel for the above situation to ever have occurred. As I’m sure you’re aware, differences in outcomes across different subgroups does not automatically imply any sort of favoritism or oppression. Nearly ever time, these outcomes are merely the aggregate results of individual choices made over the course of a lifetime.

            I am not religious either, but I think Jon’s douchebag comment is simply in response to having his religion challenged, rather than anything particularly douchey toads said. Much of what toads said is in fact true of the church. I think that is too bad as well, because Jon, also, is typically reasonable. The church used to be a champion of individual dignity. In fact, the Catholic church was the most formidable force challenging the left’s evil eugenics policy, as well as most of the “progressive” policies in the early 20th century. Not so much anymore. The church now seems to be on board with every leftwing, government supersizing policy.

          • ken-

            “Don’t you feel the least bit hypocritical saying that after you completely mischaracterized toads’ comment to mean “that women are genetically programmed to want to steal from him”?

            no.

            toads said:

            “Keep in mind that women are naturally wired to extract resources from society, and men are wired to not resist this much.” on this thread and has said much more vulgar and emphatic things in like vein on others.

            it seems that he has a very personal issue that wields like a vendetta in all manner of unrelated discussions.

            it’s very nearly the only thing he talks about.

            so no, i do not think i have mischaraterized him.

            toads seems to have some real emotional issues.

            “Also, women were never treated as “chattel” anymore than men were”

            absolutely false. husbands were permitted, by law, to beat their wives, wives were required to obey and submit, denied suffrage, education, ability to work, and punished for adultery (unlike men).

            this is the “old bible” stuff toads is linking to.

            i think you are being too generous in your views on his views.

            are you seriously going to argue that this is a balanced and reasonable statement?

            “He goes into great detail exposing how the modern Church has deviated greatly from any semblance of biblical teachings, and is effectively indistinguishable from lefty feminism in all matters except abortion.”

            have you read the stuff he’s linking?

            it’s some pretty scary stuff.

            if not, please take a quick look.

            it reads like a white supremacy site for misogyny and extols the virtues of “the submissive christian wife”.

            i’m not sure you have vetted the views of the guy you are defending here very well.

            jon’s comment is both in response to the truly creepy stuff toads is spouting and likely in response to toads hilarious projection onto others of issues like not having money or being attractive to women.

            i’ll tell you what.

            read toad’s comments again with a critical eye, then take a gander at the site he is linking which is pretty much a hate site.

            ” Kathy: If there are husbands out there that are saying, “Yes, I’m the head. This is good teaching. I like this head stuff.” It’s respectful submission between equals. Submission is something that a wife gives. It’s not something that a husband can demand. Christ emptied Himself. He didn’t grasp equality with God. It was a voluntary submission. This proves that headship does not imply superiority, nor does submission imply inferiority.

            The misdirection is nested in the word “demand”. If by demand she means force, this is technically true. But it gives the impression that it isn’t something a husband has a right to expect from his Christian wife, that she hasn’t already promised to give it by the very act of agreeing to marry him. She already made the choice to become his wife, and wives are to submit to their husbands.”

            http://dalrock.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/submission-is-something-a-wife-must-voluntarily-offer/

            read that last line several times and realize that this is sort of line toads has been consistently spouting.

            personally, i think if “douchebag” is all toads gets for trotting out “something a husband has a right to expect from his Christian wife, that she hasn’t already promised to give it by the very act of agreeing to marry him. She already made the choice to become his wife, and wives are to submit to their husbands.”

            as a sign of the good old days and how the church has failed then i think he got off light.

            this is pure hypocrisy from him. he takes “wives but submit and obey a husband” and used that as a baseline for good proper and just, and then calls a move to equality of rights as a sign of rampant feminism.

            i am absolutely with you that mean and women are different, have different brains and emotional/cognitive makeup, and that this creates meaningful differences. hell, my girlfriend is a neuroscientist and she will tell you this all day long. the science is very clear.

            but that is not what toads is talking about.

            he then trots out the slavery example ” You probably were the type who, in the 1700s, might have told blacks that slavery was the natural order of things. ” when he is linking to site that make this same argument about submissive wives.

            again, douchebag is getting off light for that guy.

          • M: “again, douchebag is getting off light for that guy.

            How about dickhead? Would dickhead be more accurate?

  3. The problem is that companies themselves have latched on to this “give back” nonsense because it appeases the loud mouthed leftists and young dupes, which in theory leads to a stronger affinity to the brand. They’re convinced it’s good business. Which it isn’t, but at least it shuts up the community organizers and talking heads who otherwise would be crying in the media and on twitter about how mean they are.

    • juanita-

      that’s a very nice way to put it.

      let me see if i can put it a little differently:

      companies that every want to get permits, licenses, avoid nasty legislation and taxes, and keep their special interest status are compelled to give to politicians pet causes as a form of white shoe graft.

      those who “give back” sail through approval processes and licensure those who do not, well, it can take a long time to get a guy out there to take a look at your plans…

  4. The unsuccessful are often jealous of the successful, so the latter often feel they have to pay them off. People label it “giving back to the community” to make it sound better.

  5. It’s time to gore the collectivist sacred cow that the successful are obliged to “give back to the community.” That oft-heard claim assumes that the wealth of high-earners is taken away from “the community.”

    No. It assumes they received something from society that helped them in their rise, typically, an education, a stable environment, the fruits of all the struggles for equality and liberty that went before them.

      • They have no debt to be paid at all. People only have one obligation, to not violate the rights of others.

        We have no debt or obligation to pay anything back to society. That is a false notion. That is a collectivist notion.

        The institutions in our society are set up to help everyone. Nobody has any obligation to pay back society because of what they received from society. An obligation to society implies that society has a claim on your wealth due to whatever benefit you received from society. Absolutely false.

        Whatever wealth you legally create for yourself is yours and yours alone to decide how to use. You are not obligated to society because of having obtained that wealth. Society is obligated to treating you the same as everyone else is treated in that society. That is the only obligation involved here.

        • GMF

          Whatever wealth you legally create for yourself is yours and yours alone to decide how to use. You are not obligated to society because of having obtained that wealth.

          Yes. Besides, “society” voluntarily gave you that wealth in exchange for something “society” values more.

          And of course others have been provided with all those same benefits “society” provided to you, but they have NOT created wealth, so the remedy is to take some of your wealth to give to those others.

          That’s called “taking back”.

    • It assumes they received something from society that helped them in their rise

      Exactly. Assumes. Hell I can assume that you made all your money from due to some help from me, so I’ll be at your house tomorrow to collect.

      Also, that education was paid for by taxes and tuition. It wasn’t “given” to anyone. My parents paid those taxes for my primary and secondary education. And I paid the taxes and tuition for my higher education. To claim that forcing me to pay taxes to a shitty government monopoly is “helping” me is absurd.

      That stable environment is called not taking from others and leaving people alone. Are you really claiming that my not raping my neighbors and stealing their stuff is “helping” them? And that they owe me a debt for not damaging them?

      The “struggles for equality and liberty” have been against encroaching governments to play favorites, enslave certain people, and control as many as possible.

      • Hell I can assume that you made all your money from due to some help from me, so I’ll be at your house tomorrow to collect.

        And that’s exactly what Z advocates, except he will send his agent to collect.

    • Z: “No. It assumes they received something from society that helped them in their rise, typically, an education, a stable environment, the fruits of all the struggles for equality and liberty that went before them.

      …says Zachriel, self identifying themselves as a collective.

      Fine sounding rhetoric, but in reality their parents provided them with that education, along with others who were given no choice in the matter. Their making good use of that wealth provides a continuation of that generous society, and is more than enough “giving back”.

      The very creation of that wealth is an expression of gratitude for what they are doing to benefit society.

      • “No. It assumes they received something from society that helped them in their rise, typically, an education, a stable environment, the fruits of all the struggles for equality and liberty that went before them.”

        In other words, “you didn’t build that!”

  6. This is why at an exchange of money during a purchase, both parties say “thank you”. Both are benefiting or there would be no transaction.

  7. The article starts out with a strawman. No one who uses the argument about giving back to the community implies anything was ever taken away. What is implied is that the community provided opportunities to amass great wealth, something that is only possible in certain communities and not in others. These opportunities arise from such factors as: having a good infrastructure, having reasonably good governance and low corruption, having a low crime rate, having a educated populace with plenty of disposable income to spend, just to name a few.

    • Stephen

      The very words ‘giving back” imply returning something that has previously been given by the community or taken by the individual – a debt has been incurred by the individual, and something must be given back to settle that debt. That’s just not the case.

      The best way to “give back” is to create wealth by providing others with something they value, and for which they are willing to pay you.

      The measure of your success at satisfying others is the amount of wealth you accumulate through their voluntary contributions.

  8. The idea of “giving back” is to help the community provide more of such opportunities for others and help those who may not be in a position to take advantage of such opportunities due to circumstance.

    • The idea of “giving back” is to help the community provide more of such opportunities for others and help those who may not be in a position to take advantage of such opportunities due to circumstance.

      And the best way I can do that is by becoming extremely wealthy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>