Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Giving by pressing a button isn't a selfless act of charity - it's a voluntary tax

Charity – that great virtue. The idea of giving without expectation of return, of using our skills, talents and hard cash for the betterment of our less fortunate brothers, for the preservation of the good in the world and for the promotion of other virtues.

How that idea has corrupted and been corrupted. To the point where our Government takes it upon itself to promote the generality of giving – indeed, a random giving to charities that undermines the very idea of that great virtue – I must admit I thought better of Francis Maude:

Cabinet Office minister Frances Maude said a new 'giving' culture could generate £4 billion for charitable causes if people agreed to give one per cent of their income.

The act of charity is demeaned by its sole definition in terms of cash. It gives succour to those righteous left-wing apologists for big government who dislike the idea of good works – it is the puritan idea of salvation through grace made real. Now Mr Maude proposes to orchestrate, manipulate and centralise our charitable acts thereby creating great charitable institutions under the control of whom? The banks? The Government? The Big Lottery?

There are, in my thinking three ways in which the charity of good folk does its work:

1. By the government enforcing ‘charity’ through the tax system – the charities, rather than rely on their own fundraising are commissioned by the Government and its agents to do ‘good work’ as defined by that government.

2. Through gifts to charitable organisations that employ people to undertake the ‘good works’ on our behalf. Money often given with little thought and no consideration of how and to whose benefit those gifts will be directed

3. Through our own actions directed at the needy cause – the few pence we give to a beggar, the fiver we freely give to some poor soul who has missed the train and can’t get home and the hours you might spend volunteering

It does seem to me that, while there’s a case to be made for each of these acts – only the third option is assuredly and genuinely charitable. Edward Rudolf really did go out into the streets of Lambeth to search out waifs and strays and Sue Ryder did volunteer to help the displaced after the Second World War. These were actions that required a degree of effort, of sacrifice and of commitment – something that isn’t encompassed by pressing an ATM button or dropping 50p in the collection box.

If the Government really is serious about charity – and I believe that it is – then the approach should be to condemn the negatives laid on charity by the left. To refute the argument that charity is somehow patronising the poor or that individual acts of generosity – whether in time, cash or spirit – are somehow made necessary only by the inadequacy of government or the paucity of tax income.

And the Government needs to face down those who wish to create great funds under the control of an elite – an essentially left-wing elite. We do not need m ore Big Lottery Funds, Clore Foundations, Comic Reliefs or Children in Needs. We need more individual acts of kindness, generosity and support.

So if you’re planning a charitable act, walk out your front door and look around at how you can help out where you live – perhaps there’s an old people’s lunch club where you can help out or a local soup kitchen. Maybe there’s a junior football club in need of sponsorship. The causes are there and you can help them directly, you can see what you give put to its benefit and you can get the pleasure of real charity.



manwiddicombe said...

Well said once again sir.

JuliaM said...

"...look around at how you can help out where you live – perhaps there’s an old people’s lunch club where you can help out..."

I got that one covered! Mind you, my mother runs it, so that's (semi)forced too... ;)