The Instigator
brian_eggleston
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Lightkeeper
Con (against)
Winning
21 Points

Taxpayers have a moral obligation to financially support vulnerable members of the community.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/25/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,556 times Debate No: 5529
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (1)
Votes (3)

 

brian_eggleston

Pro

I have read so many debates on this site recently that have implied that most government benefit handouts are, in effect, subsidies paid to people who are too bone-idle to work, and I felt it was time to put the record straight.

If possible, though, I would like to address this issue in the broader context of moral rights and wrongs, rather concentrate on any specific government's or political party's policies, although it might be useful to quote various examples to illustrate particular points.

So, to begin: contrary to popular belief, people who claim state benefits are not all shiftless, work-shy spongers who are too indolent to get up off the couch and go out and work for a living. In most countries, this type of individual would not be entitled to benefits, or would have their benefits reduced or withdrawn.

That said, there are undoubtedly people who do exploit state handouts, notably young women who deliberately get pregnant, or able-bodied people who feign clinical depression, in order to receive cash benefits and free public housing, but the remainder of claimants are in genuine financial need through no fault of their own and deserve support courtesy of the public purse.

A modern civilised country cannot allow disabled citizens, war veterans, the elderly, the mentally infirm, orphaned children and other vulnerable members of society to rely solely on charity, when charitable donations cannot be guaranteed and may not be forthcoming.

I therefore affirm that taxpayers have a moral obligation to financially support vulnerable members of the community.

Thank you.
Lightkeeper

Con

My contention is twofold. Each of the following two points is separate and should be considered in isolation from the other.

1.There is no moral obligation to support vulnerable members of the community, except for those who have not made themselves vulnerable by choice.
2.Even if governments do have that obligation, taxpayers do not.

I will now address my contentions in turn.

1.
It is obvious that opponent's resolution was general in nature. He puts forward that, irrespective of the fact that some people appear to abuse the process, a moral obligation exists to support every vulnerable person.

If a person chooses to not look for work or to quit their job or fake a disease simply so that they can derive benefits, that person is abusing a system that was put in place to provide support to those who genuinely have no other option but to rely on that support.

Governments have a limited budget, mostly derived from resources obtained through taxation. The government's contractual duty is to promote social progress and social cohesion (references will be provided if this statement is challenged). Therefore, the limited funds obtained through taxation must be applied to a number of causes. These include infrastructure, health care, law enforcement and a host of others. It is therefore the government's duty to allocate the limited resources it has wisely, so as to ensure that all of these needs are met.

In order for the government to be able to meet these needs, limited resources should not be wasted on supporting people whose position of vulnerability was reached by choice in order to obtain such support.

There are exceptions. I do not propose to deal with them at this point. I will wait for my opponent to raise them as part of his argument.

However, it is my contention that his broad proposition should be rejected.

2.
The word "taxpayer" is not synonymous with the word "government". While indirectly most money spent by the government is money obtained from the taxpayer, any possible obligation lies with the former and not the latter.

The taxpayer has no say in the government's spending. The Budget is passed by Congress (Parliament in some countries) and taxpayers have no input into the allocation of money. In fact, even voters (a concept quite distinct from taxpayers) do not decide on how money will be allocated.

Given that the funds are not available for the taxpayer to distribute and the taxpayer has no power whatsoever to dictate to the government how the money is to be allocated, the taxpayer cannot have an obligation to apply it in any particular way. That is unless my opponent is proposing that people who pay tax (taxpayers) have a moral obligation to make a contribution for the sake of the vulnerable in addition to their already paid tax. However, if that were my opponent's argument, I would see no reason why he would limit the alleged obligation to taxpayers. Surely, an equal obligation would lie with those who (for one reason or another) do not pay tax.

Furthermore, the amount of tax paid by an individual is dependent on the individual's financial position and not on the question of what the money will be ultimately spent on by the government in power.

In conclusion, the taxpayer, having no control of how his/her taxed money is spent, cannot be held morally obliged in relation to any allocation of that money.

I would like to conclude this section by saying that I have much respect for my opponent and that the broader issues of moral right and wrong are still open up for discussion, at least as part of the contest initiated by section (1) of my argument. However, I do contend that his proposition fails on the first, the second or both of the grounds I have outlined.
Debate Round No. 1
brian_eggleston

Pro

With many thanks to my opponent for accepting this challenge, I should like to respond to his arguments as follows:

First of all, my opponent and I both agree that governments, on behalf of the taxpayer, have no moral obligation to support people who deliberately put themselves in a position of vulnerability. Nevertheless, such abuses do occur and they cannot be completely eliminated. Therefore, the cost of supporting people who abuse the system must be built into the budget in the same way as well-run companies make a provision for bad debt. Certainly, the majority of claimants are in genuine need and it would be extremely immoral to punish them for the actions of the minority by withholding or reducing benefits for all claiments.

That said, I do accept my opponent's second point that taxpayers and the electorate (and their representatives in government) are not necessarily the same people. For example, a sixteen year-old flipping burgers in a fast food restaurant may pay tax but not be entitled to vote, or a citizen living overseas will be entitled to vote yet pay no tax. Furthermore, as my opponent stated, the taxpayer does not directly control how the government spends his taxes and so, it must follow that, if a government that a taxpayer didn't vote for, spends tax revenue on buying toxic debts at face value from greedy and irresponsible investment bankers rather than ensuring that handicapped orphans are not forced to rely on charity handouts to fund their meagre existence, they cannot be held to account as individuals, either morally or legally.

However, even though I accept this, the taxpayers as a whole, being the main source of income do have a moral responsibility to financially support those people less fortunate than themselves, even though, in practice, they are not in direct control of the process of distributing the necessary funds.
Lightkeeper

Con

I thank my opponent for this quick and exciting debate.

The question to ask ourselves is whether my opponent has proven his broad resolution that taxpayers have a moral obligation to support vulnerable members of the community.

My opponent has agreed with me that the government's moral duty per se is limited to legitimate claimants. However, he went on to say that it would be immoral to cut EVERYONE'S benefits simply because some claimants are not legitimate.

I do not dispute the above. However, I dispute any conclusion that the government therefore has a duty to support all claimants, including all illegitimate ones. The moral duty to support legitimate claimants can be discharged by implementing (so far as possible) a screening process to ensure that illigitemate claims are rejected. In cases where this is impossible or highly impracticable, the claimant can be given the benefit of the doubt. I would therefore agree with a resolution that "governments have a moral duty to support those vulnerable members of the community whose claims are (as best can be determined) legitimate". However, that is not a resolution my opponent has put. Given my argument and my opponent's concession, it is my contention that he has failed to prove his broad resolution.

In relation to the "taxpayer" issue, I continue to maintain that the obligation lies with the government. Taxpayers have a moral and legal obligation to pay tax to the government. The responsiblity for promoting social progress and social cohesion lies with the government and not taxpayers. Otherwise, the contention would be that the community has that obligation, as opposed to taxpayers. The two terms are not synonymous. I maintain that taxpayers, not having control of the government's expenditure, cannot have any obligation as to how it is conducted. Imposing any such obligation would be unfair and impractical. A contention that taxpayers have a collective though not individual duty cannot hold water either. The entire collective body of taxpayers does not have control of how the government spends its money. Neither do voters (until the next election). If the government's duty is to be said to extend to anyone, it can only extend to the community it represents, irrespective of who within that community pays tax and who does not.

In conclusion I contend that my opponent, notwithstanding his good intentions, has not proven his resolution as his broadly articulated proposition can not be supported by his argument. In the first issue he has sought to extend the government's moral duty without giving any consideration to the possibility of screening out a large number of illegitimate claims. In the second issue, he has formulated his proposition in such a way as to open it to a semantic attack; an attack which, in my submission, has succeeded.

You should therefore vote Con.
Debate Round No. 2
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by HandsOff 8 years ago
HandsOff
"Taxpayers have a moral obligation to financially support vulnerable members of the community."

Agreed. That's why so many voluntarily give to charity. The problem comes when "moral obligation" becomes "legal obligation."
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Killer542 8 years ago
Killer542
brian_egglestonLightkeeperTied
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Vote Placed by LandonWalsh 8 years ago
LandonWalsh
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Vote Placed by Zerosmelt 8 years ago
Zerosmelt
brian_egglestonLightkeeperTied
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