Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that?
(02-03-2012, 04:30 PM)cgraye Wrote: But that assumes that redistribution of wealth is a legitimate exercise for the government, which Aquinas seems to take exception to.

But if you really wanted to take that position to its final conclusion, you could end up saying that it is illegitimate for the government to tax people in order to fund the army or the police. Why shouldn't  we have everyone use private security contractors instead of redistributing wealth by using taxation to provide the goods of security and physical safety to all citizens?

I'm not exactly sure where St. Thomas takes exception to the idea, but some of his positions would at least seem to leave some room for government action here. For instance:
Quote:I answer that, Two things are competent to man in respect of exterior things. One is the power to procure and dispense them, and in this regard it is lawful for man to possess property. Moreover this is necessary to human life for three reasons. First because every man is more careful to procure what is for himself alone than that which is common to many or to all: since each one would shirk the labor and leave to another that which concerns the community, as happens where there is a great number of servants. Secondly, because human affairs are conducted in more orderly fashion if each man is charged with taking care of some particular thing himself, whereas there would be confusion if everyone had to look after any one thing indeterminately. Thirdly, because a more peaceful state is ensured to man if each one is contented with his own. Hence it is to be observed that quarrels arise more frequently where there is no division of the things possessed.

The second thing that is competent to man with regard to external things is their use. On this respect man ought to possess external things, not as his own, but as common, so that, to wit, he is ready to communicate them to others in their need. Hence the Apostle says (1 Timothy 6:17-18): "Charge the rich of this world . . . to give easily, to communicate to others," etc.

Reply to Objection 1. Community of goods is ascribed to the natural law, not that the natural law dictates that all things should be possessed in common and that nothing should be possessed as one's own: but because the division of possessions is not according to the natural law, but rather arose from human agreement which belongs to positive law, as stated above (57, 2,3). Hence the ownership of possessions is not contrary to the natural law, but an addition thereto devised by human reason.

Reply to Objection 2. A man would not act unlawfully if by going beforehand to the play he prepared the way for others: but he acts unlawfully if by so doing he hinders others from going. On like manner a rich man does not act unlawfully if he anticipates someone in taking possession of something which at first was common property, and gives others a share: but he sins if he excludes others indiscriminately from using it. Hence Basil says (Hom. in Luc. xii, 18): "Why are you rich while another is poor, unless it be that you may have the merit of a good stewardship, and he the reward of patience?"

Reply to Objection 3. When Ambrose says: "Let no man call his own that which is common," he is speaking of ownership as regards use, wherefore he adds: "He who spends too much is a robber."

He doesn't approve of any particular government action here, but his view of property would appear to allow some room for the government to provide healthcare if that turned out to be a good idea.

(02-03-2012, 04:53 PM)rbjmartin Wrote:
(02-03-2012, 03:50 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: We all seem to be assuming that the state can only legitimately provide those things to which we have a right, but I don't see why this is obvious. The purpose of the state, using that term in its broadest sense, is to promote the common good, not to protect individual rights of dubious existence.

Why do you say individual rights are of dubious existence? Life, liberty, and property are reflected in the 10 Commandments.

What is dubious is the use of "common good" as a justification for violating the rights granted by our Creator.

I don't really see any reason to think that natural rights inhere in individuals. The notion that there is some sort of common good between men living in community, on the other hand, seems pretty obvious. 

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Re: Do we have a duty to help the poor? How do we quantify that? - by Crusading Philologist - 02-03-2012, 05:22 PM

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