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February 7, 2011 / David Woodford

There should be no government sponsored charity

It came as a surprise to me to find that the government would be making cuts which may affect the funding that is received by charities. Not because I think it is terrible that charities may lose their funding but because I didn’t think the Government would be giving money to charities in the first place.

The problem isn’t with charities, nor with the Government helping people, but with mixing the two. Although charities are there to help people rather than make a profit I still consider them private organisations as they can, within the boundaries of the law, do what they like with the money which they collect, since people give the money voluntarily. The Government is the opposite, it must be accountable to the public and it is required to be elected because it forces people to give it money in the form of taxes. Mixing the two mixes up private charity with compulsory donations (taxes).

The government donating to charity means that politicians can take money off you against your will and give it to a charity which you wouldn’t otherwise support. If you wanted to give to that charity you could perfectly well make a donation yourself and if you wanted to give money to a different charity you could choose to do that. It’s your money so you should be the one to choose where it goes. Also, though this isn’t my main point, there will inevitably be bureaucracy involved in the Government giving money to charity and the fact that the Government has to guess which charities we want money to be given to.

When there is market failure or a need for a monopoly in the voluntary sector of course the Government should get involved as it does in other markets such as defence but, it shouldn’t do this by giving our money to private organisations over which we have no control. Instead it should provide the services itself as it currently does with the NHS, education and the welfare so that the public retains control by being able to vote for the leaders. When the Government does use private organisations it should require a contract specifying what services will be provided for the money being given. However this will makes these “charities” indistinguishable from business.

We must remember that charity involves voluntary giving without the expectation of something in return. Taxes aren’t voluntary so the money the government gives isn’t given voluntarily. Whilst the individual doesn’t get anything in return for their money clearly society does (since this is the point of the charity) and the government is a representation of society. So we are really looking at the compulsory purchase of services which we may or may not want, in which this ceases to be charity.

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