Some simple Ricardian thoughts on the Helmsley bequest for dogs

Here is Posner on the topic, here is Becker.  As I understand the terms, it is about $12 million for her dog and $5 billion to $8 billion for dogs in general.

It’s only the $12 million for her dog that is objectionable; surely one million would have sufficed and in the language of the philosophic literature on inequality, the other dogs can rightfully hold a complaint against the recipient of Helmsley’s largesse. 

$5 billion to $8 billion for dogs in general is not too much for our wealthy society to spend or to regard as a legitimate welfare objective, worthy of the standard tax deduction, at least provided it is distributed equitably.  Here’s a list of possible ways to spend the money to help dogs.  Here’s an estimate that there are more than 70 million dogs in the United States, so that is on average only $100 per dog.  Do note that while not every dog needs help, helping even a single dog requires considerable infrastructure.  If you think that’s too much aid, well, let crowding out operate and cut back on your transfers to dogs.  There’s plenty of room for give there, believe me, since more than 40 million households own dogs and thus have their finger on this trigger, maybe yours too (not mine).  It is we who control the net transfer from humans to dogs, not the dear departed Ms. Helmsley.


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