Big Charity and Real Charity

Here I mean the difference between macroscale charity vs meoscale or microscale (personal) Charity.

The bigger the charity, the less control over the conditions, and the greater the likelihood of scamming, for more than one reason.  One is that the bigger the pile of money, the bigger the potential payoff for a scammer, and the more angles scammers will come up with.  Big money attracts corruption — and not just in politics.

The other biggie is the further the separation, speaking in the community sense that goes from the small end to the big end… personal, family, friends, church, town, county, state, federal … the less the giver is actually involving himself in actually helping the recipient, and the less the recipient feels any obligation to use it wisely.

I don’t think it was intended as an illustration, but a … let’s say cousin-in-law who is a minister relayed this story:

A lady who came to the church a few weeks ago with a broken insulin bottle asking for a gift card to fill the prescription showed up again today with the same broken bottle and the same story.  This time he told her that if the only way they could help her was with cash or a gift card, they couldn’t help her.  So she wandered off, dejectedly, probably toward the next church.

He said I feel bad for such people – some may actually be poor and have real needs. But, like the woman who left a voice mail message looking for aid and gave one name at the beginning of the message and a different one at the end of the message, I’m afraid that I’m just not willing to use what limited resources I have for people who aren’t going to be honest with us.

This illustrates the kinds of controls that happen on the meso and micro levels that just don’t out toward the macro end of the scale.

And this is essentially the conservative view of Charity.  First of all, mandatory charity isn’t charity (I always say “forced charity isn’t”), and the wider the gap in relationship between  the source and the recipient, the more easily it is gamed, and the more counter-productive it can be.

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About philmon

Part mountain junkie, part decent amateur photographer, part survivalist, part not-so-decent amateur musician, part sysadmin. Husband, step-dad, grandpa, and music freak who digs mechanical clocks, barometers, and Gil Elvgren pinups. Studied Meteorolgy & Computer Science. And the U.S. Constitution.

3 thoughts on “Big Charity and Real Charity

  1. severian

    The other reason they love Big Charity is accountability, or lack thereof. Not just that the recipients are more likely to be held accountable, mind you — it’s the non-accountability of the supposed charity-givers that matters.

    Your cousin-in-law the minister surely knows who among his congregation has given to charity and who hasn’t. You can’t go around proclaiming your good works if you haven’t actually done them, because he knows and can call you on it. The bigger the Charity, though, the lower the accountability — “who cares if I haven’t given a second or a cent to the Elm Street Homeless Shelter?! I voted for Barack Obama, so that all the homeless can haz Free Health Care ™.”

  2. Gary

    First of all, mandatory charity isn’t charity (I always say “forced charity isn’t”)…

    A long time ago I worked an entry-level tech job at a big insurance company in a city renowned for its staggering urban blight. My paycheck left just enough to pay my bills, rent a converted attic in marginal area, and have a little fun.

    Every year, the big insurance company teamed up with United Way and put the hard-sell on me and grunts who earned even less than me. They called it “Giving Your Fair Share.” Somehow they reckoned this to be some percentage of your gross pay, only 70% (or less) actually remained after deductions.

    I resented the whole notion of them deciding what my “fair share” should be and despised the strong-arm tactics they used to try and get everyone on board, so I just didn’t sign up. My supervisor actually had the gall to call me into his office and ask me why I wasn’t participating. But he backed off when I told him it was none of his business how much money I gave to charity and to whom I gave it–which was probably very politically incorrect, but I didn’t give a crap and left that job within 2 years anyway.

    IMHO this is worst kind of impersonal, bureaucratized, unresponsive giving. The insurance company liked to brag about being a good member of “the community” since it bludgeoned its employees into giving some large amount to United Way–who in turn dispensed much of it to “the community” (which still looked like post-WW2 Dresden after many years of such community charity).

    Based on this experience, I’ll have nothing to do with United Way–though I would not be at all surprised if this charitable behemoth had a large overhead and/or gave to various dubious causes: eg Item #371 in the IRS report says UW gave $1.17 million to “Community Healing Projects,” which turns out to be a front group for ACORN–great! Let’s look some more. Item #218 shows a donation of $927,883 to something called “Reproductive Services”–which, it turns out, spends 93% of its budget on abortions. But maybe you don’t believe in abortion. Too bad, you just gave money to perform more of them. etc

    I’m just making this stuff up, but I wouldn’t be at all be surprised to find similar things. The lefty groups are really good at pressuring such organizations (or taking them over outright, as has happened to the big foundations, like Ford, Carnegie, etc), scavenging the rich carcasses of these bloated entities like a pack of hyenas on a dead African buffalo.

  3. Gary

    First of all, mandatory charity isn’t charity (I always say “forced charity isn’t”)…

    The worst offender, of course, is the federal government–who forcibly confiscates tax money, some of which goes to pay for welfare, social security, medicare, ObamaCare and various other forced-charity projects. Next worst are some of state governments.

    Several years back a libertarian organization in Massachusetts did something clever. Somehow they got an item added to the state tax form which was labelled something like, “Voluntary donation to the state’s general fund.” This enabled any resident to donate money to help run the state government and/or reduce its deficit.

    Now in a state like Taxachusetts, chock-full of do-gooder progressives who never saw a tax they didn’t like, you might guess this new line in their tax form would get a lot of takers. But you’d be wrong. I forget the actual number of people who donated, but it something hilarious like 7! Out of a total population of about 6.7 million (and at least 2 or 3 million taxpayers, I guess).

    Think for a moment about the mentality of your typical, more-tax-the-better Bay Stater. On the one hand, he loves the state government so much, he thinks it deserves increasing amounts of cash from the people. On the other hand, he won’t voluntarily give it an extra cent until he has succeeded in forcing everyone else to ante up their hard-earned money!

    Truly amazing.

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