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 Wednesday, 05 January 2005
Wednesday, 05 January 2005 13:06:37 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

In the wake of the horrific aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami various people have attacked the US for being stingy. Is the US really stingy? It is hard to say, since it isn't our government's job to handle our charitable affairs.

While some countries such as China, may centralize all charitable activity into a government function, that is not the case in the US. In fact, there's no provision in the Constitution for the government to do any form of charity, and since the Constitution specifically forbids the government from assuming any rights not specifically granted it, we can be quite certain that the federal government doesn't have the authority or responsibility to represent the sum of US charity.

In fact, US culture specifically goes the other way. We hoard our rights as individuals to give to charities of our own choice. Charities that we feel will use our money in a way that fits with our worldview. Some people give money via religious charity in the hopes that not only good, but god will come out of the gift. Others give money based on an organization's efficiency, or specific area of focus.

 “Charitable“ money given by our government is a political instrument. The fact that it might do good is nice, but isn’t really the primary motivation. Our government’s job in the global sphere is to interact with other governments and peoples on our behalf from an economic, political and military perspective. Charity really isn’t in the job description as such.

And of course corporations give money to charity as well. Sometimes this is on behalf of employees, and is essentially the same as individual giving. Sometimes it is more akin to governmental giving, in that the corporation is using the money as a political instrument. Determining which is which is virtually impossible, and is beside the point I’m trying to make here.

People, the government and corporations all give to charity. But we reserve the primary means of giving to us as individual citizens. And this is all good and proper.

But it does take more work to figure out whether the US is stingy or not. To really know, you need to total up what the government provides in raw dollars and in indirect expenses (like the USAF and USN planes, helicopters, ships and soldiers all involved in delivering aid). Then you need to add in all US corporate charity. And then you need to add in all individual giving through the myriad charitable organizations out there (religious and secular).

Only then will we actually know the amount of US donations to aid the victims of the tsunami.

This article indicates that the Australians and Germans are seriously outpacing the US. That may be true, but unfortunately they only count the US government donations, and even then they aren’t counting the cost of our on-the-ground military operations.

Now if you’ve read my other blog entries you are well aware that I’m not jingoistic in any way. But I do try to be fair. It may be that the US people are being stingy, I don’t know. I have yet to see a media report that actually takes into account the reality of US charitable giving and how it works.

And the last thing I want is for the US government to assume a greater role in charitable giving. That’s MY job damn it!!

Comments [2] | | # 
Wednesday, 05 January 2005 15:49:10 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
It is true that the government of the US has not been as charitable on a per capita basis as the governments of other countries. And it is further true that our "president" spent three days cutting brush after the disaster before doing a thing about it - and then had the nerve to say that actions speak louder than words (I'm sureall that brush he cut will be very helpful in saving lives in South Asia).

But I have also heard that the total amount of money the US has pledged in government and private charities has now surpassed $2,000,000,000, which is a pretty good amount of money over all. We might have a 'stingy' government (although I think this is hardly the case when you look at give aways to large corporations, but that's beside the point at best), but it is pretty clear that the collective whole of the US is at least moderatly generous.

Now, since 150,000 people or so died in this disaster and we pledged two billion dollars, that must mean that since 300,000 people have died in Darfur, we'll be sending them four billion dollars. Right?
The Evil Cub
Thursday, 06 January 2005 03:43:38 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I believe the whole charitable donations thing is being used in a slightly sinister fashion by some. I happen to believe that what I donate to charity is my business and no one else’s.

In a way Bush was right in that this is a time for action over words (whether he took any / enough or not is another matter entirely of course). Governments, organisations and individuals hoping to gain some sort of moral credit by making it plain that they gave lots of money tarnishes the donation – which ceases to become charity, and becomes a kind of advertising budget. At least in the case of Governments they can be held to account - if only this sort of thing ever became an election issue...
Tim Ensor
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