Daniel Kuehn Reads Bleeding Heart Libertarians, and recoils:
My thoughts on all this recent BHL stuff: People are actually arguing about the value of social justice and are apparently morally apoplectic about preventing a hypothetical resident of a hypothetical island from starving to death. So my thoughts: I just don't get libertarians sometimes. I would have thought these would be two very easy things to talk about. Apparently it makes a whole swath of libertarians suspect. I hope my brief perusal of the discussion has just given me a misleading picture, but I don't think it has.
The questions appear to be:
Able Abel, with a hard day’s work, can produce enough to feed ten people on the island. Betty, Charles, Edgar, Frank, Gertrude, Harriet, Irene, and Jacob can each, with a hard day’s work, produce enough to feed one person. Disabled Dan's legs are paralyzed and he cannot produce any food at all. All ten find themselves on a deserted island. (1) Do the bottom nine have a right to tax Abel's surplus to keep Dan from starving to death? (2) Suppose Abel produces only enough food to support himself, and relaxes the rest of the day; do the bottom nine have a right to force Abel to work more to keep Dan from starving to death?
According to Bryan Caplan, at least, the Only True Modern Libertarian answers to both questions appear to be "no": that a 10% tax on Abel's potential income would be to turn him into a slave.
I confess that I am scared of modern libertarians too.