Collectivism vs. Charity

In the midst of an argument about the dubiousness of some charitable tax deductions that I generally agree with, Conor Clarke makes an astounding leap:

Decisions about what will make our community better should be made communally — by pooling revenue and making collective decisions about where and how it should be spent.

Methinks someone needs to re-read The Road to Serfdom.  The path that begins with communal decision-making about “what’s best for the community” is one that ends up with the individual as a mere cog in the community, with no agency of his own.

Even if we construe Clarke’s point narrowly, considering it only in the context of charitable giving, it’s problematic.

Surely, we wouldn’t want to strip private individuals and foundations of the right to make decisions about what’s good for the community and to act upon those decisions?  The best charities are not only more effective than government at targeting problems but they’re more innovative in identifying areas of need and coming up with new solutions.

To be sure, there are ineffective charities run by inept individuals and some big time “charities” that are essentially a license to steal for the leadership, who leave little for the ostensible cause the organization supports after the top people take their cut.   It doesn’t make sense to subsidize donating to these people by allowing tax write-offs.

One might also argue that private individuals shouldn’t be subsidized by the federal taxpayer for contributing to non-profits of their choosing.  Arguably, a dollar going to the Federal government is more valuable to me than a dollar going to an organization working toward a cause I oppose.  (Then again…)   Any reform or elimination proposals will have to keep in mind the tax incidence issue that Steve Verdon raises, of course, but it’s a debate worth having.

Cartoon:  Look Magazine

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. What does he think millions of Americans making decisions where they will put their charitable dollars is but “pooling revenue and making collective decisions about where and how it should be spent”?

    What he really means is that you will be forced to “pool your revenue” on pain of criminal sanction for not paying your taxes and that congress and bureaucrats will be the ones to make the “collective decisions”. The more I see the face of the liberal political agenda, the more I see the face of oppression.

  2. Michael says:

    What does he think millions of Americans making decisions where they will put their charitable dollars is but “pooling revenue and making collective decisions about where and how it should be spent”?

    Millions of Americans aren’t making that decision. Instead we elect representatives who create rules that make those decisions for us.

    What he really means is that you will be forced to “pool your revenue” on pain of criminal sanction for not paying your taxes and that congress and bureaucrats will be the ones to make the “collective decisions”.

    I’m not sure he was going quite that far, not that I really like how far he was going much better.

    I happen to run a charity myself, but I wouldn’t want the “community” deciding on whether to give me money or not. Most of the “community” doesn’t know most of the charities in their community, and they certainly won’t share opinions on the worthiness of each. People who give to my charity do so because they like what I do. The better I do, the more people like it, the more donations I get. That’s the way it aught to be.

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I think those who are too stupid to know what to do with there money should join the Democratic party and donate to that entity. Those who insist they own what they earn should join the Republican party. Government of the People and for the People seems to be coming to the fore. While Government by the people seems to have been left far behind. Our represenatatives do not represent our best interests. They follow party line. And while that might not be a bad thing if both parties were equally honest. It does not take an IQ in the three digit level to see who wants to take away and who believes in personal responsiblity. The left has taken over the Democratic party. It is no longer in America’s best interests to follow where they lead. They intend to tax us into submission. I will not submit.

  4. Floyd says:

    Truth is immutable, even in the face of the contrived fantasies of those who think themselves wiser than it.
    Private charity has become a threat to the new Marxist paradigm and must be discouraged if Big Brother is to lead America into the brave new world of perpetual peace where wishes are horses and pigs have wings.

    “And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!”
    Rudyard Kipling-1919

  5. An Interested Party says:

    It’s nice to see that people like Zelsdorf and Floyd can be as batshit crazy as some on the left were when W was president…keep up the good work, fellas…