I am reading Christopher Snowden's book, The Spirit Level Delusion, which sets out to rebut - graph by graph, statistic by statistic - the thesis of Wilkinson and Pickett's work The Spirit Level. These books are both worth a read (the latter - it seems - more for its influence than its accuracy).
The Spirit Level has been embraced by socialists of all parties as proof that equality makes everyone happier, healthier and kinder - and that redistributive taxation is therefore good for all. As someone who has lived in the former Soviet Union, it only proves to me (a) how short human memories are and (b) the truth of Paul Simon's youthful insight that;
"...a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest..."
Let me cite one paragraph from Snowden's counterblast, referring to the chart clumsily reproduced above. The further right the country, the more "unequal" it is, apparently;
"Equal and unequal countries donate part of their GDP to good causes in their own way. More egalitarian countries use money from high taxes which is given away as politicians see fit. Low tax countries allow people to give to charities and causes as they see fit. But although one system relies on compulsion and the other relies on charity, it is the voluntary system that generates the greatest sums. As shown ... the amount France gives to charity amounts to just 0.14% of GDP, twelve times less than the USA (1.73%). Even if we add the 0.39% France gives in foreign aid, it is still a quarter of the American total of 1.91%. When the contribution of individuals is combined with that of the state, it is clear that less equal countries are at least as philanthropic as the rest and often more so."
Next time you feel inclined to dismiss libertarian advocacy of volunteerism as mere camouflage for uncaring stinginess, please consider that the state is as inefficient at generosity as at everything else. These statistics don't even address how much it costs to deliver state, as opposed to voluntary aid. I am prepared to bet the wastage on administration is much, much greater; leaving even less for the deserviing recipients.