Some on the Left really are against anything voluntary…

Holy crap:

The Alliance Party [a socialist party which was once a significant force but is now, thankfully, irrelevant] says that New Zealand doesn’t need the “American culture of giving” promoted by the Prime Minister.

Alliance Party spokesperson Victor Billot says New Zealand already has its own culture of giving – where the people collectively provide for their social wellbeing through public goods such as health, education and welfare.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, but it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that the Alliance is much more concerned with empowering the state for the state’s sake than with the welfare of the poor.

10 Responses

  1. “public goods such as health, education and welfare”

    But by and large these things are not public goods, so our Alliance Party spokesperson is somewhat confused. But I’m sure he would want the state to provide them anyway.

    • Yep. I’m pretty convinced that many on the left think ‘public good’ means merit good. Most of the things they cite are both rival and excludable and don’t have significant positive externalities.

  2. No, the Alliance Party is not more concerned with empowering the state for the state’s sake than with the welfare of the poor. That is because democratic socialists see the State as a democratic expression of the individuals who make up society acting in a collective way; as a community. This is opposed to the “libertarian” view which sees the State as useful in an entirely negative way, that is to provide cops and jails to keep their wage slaves in line.

    Health, education and welfare are public goods. Health is a public good because transmissible diseases of poverty effect an entire society; education is a public good because an uneducated public will be ignorant, excluded from society and impoverished; and welfare is a public good because a society that is balanced, stable and secure benefits all in the long run.

    Terms like rival, excludable and significant positive externalities are pretentious jargon, I suggest you read George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt as well and I am sure this would be of great help.

    Thanks for the interest.

    • Victor. To some degree things like health will have public good aspects but the things you list would make them merit goods not public goods.

    • To me it sounds an awful lot like you care about the state per se rather than the welfare of the poor. Thinking an activist state advances your goals better than private action is a reasonable (though I would say mistaken) position to hold, but surely voluntary giving can only advance them further. Why on earth would you oppose it? There is no evidence to suggest that Key was using the statement to prepare the way for cutting back on welfare. It was at a philanthropy conference!

      ‘Rival’, ‘excludable’ and ‘positive externalities’ have a specific meaning. If you can suggest better words which convey the same meaning you would find less pretentious I would be glad to hear them. I read the Orwell essay some years ago, what I remember was his criticism of vacuous statements. Terms like ‘balanced’ and ‘excluded’ as you use them are pretty vague.

  3. Yeah, let’s force people to give these “public goods” — everyone’s just “giving,” eh?

  4. I guess if people (the rich in particular) were especially generous, then private charity would work at solving all society’s problems.

    But it doesn’t.

    So an alternative is to use a minimal amount of the power of the state to protect life (the most important “property right” of all) via taxation of those who are well-off.

    Another alternative is to let people become destitute and die.

    If someone can’t part with 40% of every dollar they earn over $100k so much that they’d rather have social problems in NZ comparable to those of the USA, funnily enough I lose so much sympathy for them that I don’t give a darn about whether they “give” or if it’s “stolen by the state” – just as long as the money is used on health, welfare and education.

    • Fine. Arguing for the welfare state is reasonable (but wrong :P ). My bewilderment is at Alliance badmouthing private charity, which surely only advances their goals further. It seems like they only want money/services going to the poor if the state is forcibly redistributing.

      • Private charity is good, but is by no means as comprehensive as general taxation.

        What I have a problem with is cutting the general tax take and trying to pretend it won’t lessen support for the needy because *some* taxpayers will flip a proportion of their tax cuts into charity. I just think it would be more efficient to, say, up community grants from government to non-profit social service trusts, if you *have* to go private-sector.

        A bit like I have a problem with a 3news segment on the farcicle nature of his “give it to charity” excuse for millions of dollars of tax cuts being followed by a segment on the results of the $18k his cast raised (surgery in the Pacific). Hey, nice work on giving the money to charity, shame you’re refocussing NZAID.

        Taking away with both hands, but throwing a crumb back and saying “be grateful”.

  5. You can hardly accuse the “left” of being against anything voluntary when they give freely of their time and money to advance a more just society. The criticism is not of charitable giving per se but of calls for it to replace the proper public funding of public services. And, yes, we do advocate the redistribution of wealth through a fair taxation system rather than depending on handouts from the rich when they deem they have some surplus cash to causes they deem deserving.

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