I had a couple more thoughts to append to my post on privilege and responsibility.
1) When I say that the rich have certain responsibilities, I mean that they have certain ethical responsibilities. This is different than saying that they have certain legal responsibilities. It is the responsibility of the government to protect people from each other by (say) enforcing contracts and the like. It is not the responsibility of the government to require that the rich be charitable. Confiscatory taxation to fund social programs is totally contrary to what I’m talking about.
2) When I say that the rich have certain responsibilities, I’m generally talking about anyone who can read this blog. Is this a generalization? You betcha. However, I’ve noticed that people have a tendency to avoid calling themselves rich.
Here’s an example. For the last couple of years, my GenCon demo for Dirty Secrets has featured various members of the independent roleplaying community, who have graciously agreed to appear in my demo. As a result, I’ve asked several people to “stat” themselves out in Dirty Secrets terms. This means writing down your age, sex, race, social class, and legal status, each chosen from a specific list. The options for “social class” are simply rich, middle class, and poor. Most people were very uncomfortable identifying their social class, even though they generally settled on “middle class”. And, to be fair, it’s an awkward question. How do you go about answering that one? I mean, what social class are you?
But when these discussions come up, it’s often human nature to push ourselves toward the median. I mean, I’m not living in a house with a dirt floor, but I’m not in a mansion, you know? So I must not be poor or rich, right?
Of course, these categories aren’t tight; rather, they form a spectrum that shifts from “dirt poor” to “poor” to “working class” to “middle class” to “upper middle class” to “rich” to “filthy rich” to “Vanderbilt”. And that’s not really a fair spectrum either.
So, when considering these issues, don’t think about the “poor”. Think about “those who are poorer than me”. Specifically, think about “my neighbors who are poorer than me”. Because, as G.K. Chesterton pointed out, Jesus didn’t say, “Love humanity”. He said, “Love your neighbor.”