I have long been of the opinion that charity is a tax on generosity.
As someone who in the past has had some spare income, recently deceased, I have been able to afford to make random charitable donations, but sometimes I didn’t want to sponsor your 200m fun-run for Little Johnny’s play group to have a new play slide while there are other children who are going blind because they don’t have clean water and well, Johnny is YOUR child. I’d rather pay more tax and have someone else worry about whether cat welfare is more important than flood relief. I’m not sure it’s fair to help those whose parents die in a disaster more than those who die from malaria. I’m even willing to pay the government a bit extra to employ people to think about this for me. Labour-saving easing of conscience with simple, consolidated monthly payments.
Then I got interested in politics. It turns out, to my surprise, that not everyone agrees with me. Apparently some people think that what happens overseas is none of our business and drug addict parents have only got themselves to blame if their children turn to a life of crime. I think their attitude may be a bit short-term but this is how they think so we must deal with the reality of the situation we find ourselves in.
I’ve realised that charity exists to fill the gap in generosity between the people who will give their last penny to re-house retired donkeys and those who think immigrants who come here for the promise of a job that didn’t exist, to pay for their family back home, haven’t paid into the Welfare State so only have themselves to blame. Some of those same people still think we need Trident missiles and aircraft carriers and flower baskets in the high street. I guess we all value something. I find it unsurprising that right-wing politicians are usually most vocal about the importance of charity and volunteer work, preferably by the unemployed.
Why don’t we fill in a form to say what tax we are willing to pay and for what? We could set minimum taxation at the level almost everyone would agree then everything else could be optional. It would take a few passes to work out what people were willing to pay for and how many people each cost would have to be shared amongst then experts in each field could decide the most efficient way to spend each fund. I think that could be done for less than the cost of charities’ competitive fund raising. Maybe it wouldn’t work for everything and we’d still need some charities but when faced with simple questions of “Do you want this?” people would make good decisions. Obviously, what you decided to fund would be made public in some way. That would take politics to street level. “Our health centre just had to close, who didn’t fund health fully this year?”