Charities and a socialist state (1)

In this post I will discuss how charity and fundraising fit in the concept of a socialist state. While my write-up may not win many “likes” I believe the arguments presented here have enough merit to warrant a closer look.

Let us start by stating that socialism is a political system which strives to provide every citizen with a socially acceptable minimum level of sustenance. The operative word here is “minimum” – there is no promise of opulent wealth for the masses but a lack of access to basic services like healthcare or education will not be tolerated. If and when the disadvantaged are deemed to be too hard done by more wealth will be transferred from the rich to fund the necessary boost in public services. This is how socialist states operate – the minimum level of sustenance is provided to all.

In this context it is quite curious that the charities appear to have a similar aspiration – to provide a socially acceptable minimum to all. It is not often that the Sallies or Caritas collect money for the unfortunate ones who cannot afford a third TV set in the rumpus room. We are usually asked to donate for those who have no access to the basic necessities of life like food or power to heat their houses in winter. But, hang on – is this not what the taxes we pay in the West are for? To give the social minimum to those who, for whatever reason, cannot fend for themselves? Are we not asked to pay for the same thing twice? Is donating to street appeals not like first buying a dog and then having to bark ourselves at the gate?

It is a tempting thought to dismiss all charity as double-dipping but there is a further twist. Let us take a closer look at what happens when a successful charity collects significant funds to fight, say, glue ear in early primary kids. There already is a glue ear eradication program run by the state – being able to hear is considered a basic human right which a socialist state aims to provide to all. So, what happens when a new player in the glue ear fighting game throws some chips on the table?

Well – the ensurer of the minimum material standards (a socialist state) is under less pressure to pay for the mop-up operation. After all, they are only responsible for the minimum provision of services. Since the problem has just become less (as a result of another party throwing money at it) it takes less state funding to make sure all kids can hear. So, the money already budgeted to fight glue ear can now be used to address another pressing social need. The state authorities may in their wisdom decide that a problem requiring urgent intervention is, for example, re-integration of sexual offenders into the society and this is where the surplus funding will go.

So, the end result is far from what the glue-ear donors have anticipated. Their generous financial contribution has not, effectively, gone to fighting the hearing problem in primary school children at all. It has been used to re-habilitate the sex offenders. Ok – technically it is not the same money but the end result is the same. The social service which got boosted by extra funding is not the cause that they have donated for.

You may say that the examples I chose are manipulative but the truth remains that, within the context of a socialist state, the charity money does not materially help the cause people donate for. Does it mean we should all stop giving to charities? No – it means we should be aware of how things work in the real world and donate wisely. Preferably directly to the intended recipients, to reduce the risk of the state re-directing its statutory funding elsewhere.

Charities and a socialist state (2)

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