The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Guilty Conscience

I’m in two minds about charity, Children In Need, Comic Relief...

Mind one. Growing up as a hard-core leftie, gleaning my politics from The Housemartins' lyrics, I don’t like the idea of charity. If there are people in need they should be helped by the state, funded through taxation. That’s the most efficient way of doing things and it means everyone gives their fair share.

Because with charity, people don’t give their fair share. They give the least they can possibly afford. The poorest people, proportionally, give the most. The whole process of fund-raising is expensive and wasteful; money which could be better spent.

There’s also the argument that if a charity is fulfilling a need – say, providing care for the elderly – then that absolves the state of their responsibility to provide that service instead and actually makes things worse. I’m not sure it works like that, but it’s a persuasive argument.

However – mind two - funding things through direct taxation doesn’t make people feel better. Which might sound like cynicism, but it’s not. People need to do good. It’s part of being human. If we see someone suffering our first, most fundamental, human impulse is to help. Only the most cold-hearted self-regarding misanthrope could resist that impulse because they believe they’re already ‘doing their bit’ through paying their taxes. So, as with the Gaza thing, people should be given the opportunity to help.

Problem is, with some of these things, the event seems to come first and the good cause second. It’s all about giving people an opportunity to salve their consciences while where the money goes is an afterthought. Like the joke that somebody made about the 20th anniversay Band Aid single – isn’t it convenient that there happens to be another famine exactly 20 years after the last one?

No comments:

Post a Comment