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Guest Post: Economics

It's not charity if it's compelled

Charities getting too much taxpayer cash, says think-tank - Telegraph.

That government uses "charities" as a front for its activities may be news to the Institute of Economic Affairs, The Telegraph and the government, but it has been widely known for years. There is even a website - www.fakecharities.org - that seeks to identify those channeling taxpayers' money fraudulently. For example, the site's entry on ASH Scotland reads;

Of the £468,500 ASH received in grants and donations in 2006/07, £403,800 came from the Scottish Parliament. The remainder came from Health Scotland (which is part of NHS Scotland) and the British Heart Foundation (which receives £4m from the government).

The site also reveals that a mere £8,000 of Alcohol Concern's £1.1 million income comes from non-state sources. In what sense can such a state-funded organisation be seen as anything other than an arm of government?

Most pernicious of all are those (like ASH and Alcohol Concern) that are funded by government to lobby government for changes in the law desired by government. There is no way that such "astroturfing" can be characterised as anything but fraud. It involves multiple frauds actually. Government takes money from taxpayers under the false pretence that it is needed to fund legitimate state activity and then gives it to organisations lobbying for a bigger state. Those organisations raise money from genuinely charitable citizens seeking to alleviate genuine suffering but actually run political campaigns at the instigation of politicians. The lobbying funded by the government is then presented as "evidence" of a public desire for more state interference along lines desired by the ruling party.

At the heart of this is a moral point. Charity is a wonderful activity. The religious say it's good for the 'soul' and the rest of us (agreeing with the sentiment if not the words) regard the charitable impulse as the litmus test for a decent human. But while statists will warp this story into an imagined attack on charity itself, the truth is there can be no charity in any state-funded activity. Every resource the government has was taken by force. The OED defines "charity" as

The voluntary giving of money or other help to those in need

Voluntary" being the key word. Government "giving" to charity actually prevents genuine charity by those from whom the money was taken by both force and (in this case) fraud.

Statists may believe government aid expresses the charitable instincts of all of us but it really only expresses the corrupt desire of those in power to buy support with other peoples' money. Worst of all it expresses the great lie at the heart of state corruption of civil society; that government is both more benign and more wise than the people and knows better than those who earned it how their money should be spent. Please review your charitable giving and cancel any donations to charities receiving taxpayers' money. Give instead to the many wonderful genuine organisations, such as the RNLI, that carry on the true work of charity.

STOP PRESS Devil's Kitchen (who coined the name "fake charities" and set up the Fake Charities website) has more (and better) on this subject.

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