"What's Missing From the Budget Debate" is the headline over a piece by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins in Forbes:
Rand's ideas are indispensable in the struggle to limit government: they provide the key to answering the moral argument for the entitlement state.
That argument, Rand argued, rests on an ethical precept we've been taught since childhood: your neighbor's need is a claim on your wealth and property. You are, in short, your brother's keeper.
Well, if so, then you must keep your brother by providing him with a guaranteed retirement (Social Security), an endless supply of medical care (Medicare, Medicaid, S-CHIP), a roof over his head (public housing), and an education for his kids (public schooling). If self-sacrifice for the needs of others is a moral imperative, then so is the entitlement state.
When Ryan's critics call his budget immoral, they are counting on a simple train of logic: Since the entitlement state is a moral imperative, anyone who wants to cut it back is at war with morality.
People feel differently about their brother, or their neighbor, on one end of the spectrum, versus everyone in America or everyone in the world, on another end of the spectrum. To use the example of Google Plus, or Google+, which a lot of people are getting to know these days, your brother might end up in your family "circle," your neighbor in a different circle, all Americans in one circle, and all non-Americans in another circle. Whether you "must" help members of one circle or another is one question; how much you choose to help members of another circle is another question. Hayek's The Fatal Conceit begins by drawing this distinction between rules designed to govern how people behave in small groups versus how they behave in much larger groups.
So I'd disagree slightly with Messrs. Brook and Watkins here. I don't think it's necessary to reject responsibility for your brother or your neighbor in order to support some entitlement reform or reductions. It's possible to accept responsibility (or choose to accept responsibility) for your brother or neighbor, without accepting it for all Americans, or for the whole world. One can have different levels of obligation to people in different circles. At issue in the entitlement debate Messrs. Brook and Watkins are writing about is what obligation, if any, Americans have to each other as Americans, since not even the far left, so far as I can tell, is talking about including the entire world's population into Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.