These are hard.
What would you take for yourself, that you know would help someone else more?
What would you give your child, that if you gave to another child instead would dramatically change their life?
These philosophical questions are ones that we don’t explicitly ask ourselves. They are by design difficult to answer. They pit our egalitarian principles and a belief in a fair world against our most basic desire to provide and protect ourselves and those we love.
Yet they play out each day implicitly in the choices we make about how we spend our time, our money, and our social capital.
For example, would you invest in an SAT tutor for your child knowing that only a small fraction of parents can afford the cost? Would you find a way to get vaccinated if you knew it might delay someone, more at risk than you, from receiving theirs? Would you give a friend’s child an internship, if it might deny it to someone more deserving but less connected?
In raising these questions, I run the risk of sounding judgmental. But I know portions of my house are made of glass, so I toss these stones gently. I moved to a town, specifically to give my children certain advantages. I spend money on expensive takeout while people miles away go hungry. Even as you read this, I’m renting a house during my children’s spring break, while others get no break at all.
We should all, to some extent, be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor, without guilt or remorse.
At the same time, when does it feel like we’re hoarding our spoils versus sharing them?
On the latest episode of my podcast, I talked to Richard Reeves from the Brookings Institution about this very subject. It was, at times, a difficult conversation and will likely challenge your own sensibilities. I know it did mine.
I hope you have a listen.