Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's one thing to be generous...

but another to use coercion to foist a guilt trip on people to be so.

The idea? Require all cash withdrawals from ATMs and all EFT-POS transactions to offer people an option of "donating" some money to charity.   Of course that would be managed collectively so that "charity" isn't specified.   Some companies already do this as part of their business, but the government is talking about making it mandatory.

What nerve.

The effect is to imply  "you're buying something, you can't do that and not also give money for something else".  It imposes a duty on people to spend a second or two to say no to giving their own money to some charity they haven't had time to even judge the merits of, as if it doesn't matter, it's a charity, charities are good.  This is nonsense of course.   People may object to charities run by specific religions, or they may object to causes that are seen to be more political than philanthropic, or quite simply people want their own money to be used for their own purposes.

Objectivists regard benevolence as being human, natural and a part of life.  People do give of their time, money and possessions to others because they find value in doing so.  At the most basic level it happens most frequently with family and friends, but many give of themselves to strangers and causes, and do so because it gives them joy to support whatever cause it is that they like.  It is not a sacrifice to give time or money for the value of providing support for something you agree with, and to help those you wish to help.

However, the Conservative Party (and dare I say quite a few small "c" conservatives) believe charity is not just about that, but an obligation.  It is as if your very existence and the fact you have or earn money means you are morally obliged to give some to others.  That you owe other people something and that you are somehow immoral if you don't give.   This guilt for your existence and guilt for success is at the bottom of this approach, and even setting aside the burden of tax in the UK (which is over 50% for me if VAT is included), nobody should feel guilty for not giving their money away.  It is, after all, their money.

So to hell with enforced charitable giving.   One point usefully noted by the BBC on TV was that people in the UK are more generous charitable givers than the French and Germans (both known to have more generous welfare states), but less than the US (which has lower taxes and less welfare).  The lesson to the Conservatives or anyone wanting people to be more benevolent, is that when the state takes more, people are less inclined to give.  Even more important, the last thing taxpayers want is to be hectored by those who live off their money, to be charitable.

Although it wouldn't go wrong for politicians to tell anyone who wants the government to spend more on pet ideas that they should spend their own money on it first and then engage in some fundraising, instead of wanting the state to force others to pay.

1 comment:


Have those foolish Cameroons realised what it would do to the queues at ATMs if each transaction took an extra minute or so while we were asked to donate.
Such a system will annoy so many people as they queue in the cold for their cash.