The Bizzare Nature of Public Charity in the USA

I was originally going to write this piece in November but work related issues kept me too busy to do a good job, and then things got delayed. So here it goes..

Every November, all across North America, we keep on hearing stuff on the lame-stream media about donating food, clothes, money etc to the less fortunate. But is this mode of charity even relevant or rational?

The concept of charity is rooted in a world of real scarcity- one that no longer exists. Look around you.. there is no real shortage of decent food, clothing, shelter, medical care, toys etc. Better technology, more automation, and ever-increasing productivity has resulted in the disappearance of real scarcity from developed nations sometime between the 1930s and 1950s. Today even so-called luxuries like various tech toys, air travel, information are incredibly cheap by historic standards.

Therefore one cannot escape the realization that anything short of a stable middle-class existence in developed countries is intentional deprivation without any rational reason to support it.

But why do people behave in a manner that is so obviously divorced from reason? I have given this some thought and believe there are two types of reasons.

The first type of reasons are based in legacy behavior. To put it another way- many people, especially older ones, might not be able to imagine a world where there is no real scarcity. One should not forget that institutions and widely accepted ways of doing things have an inertia which lasts beyond their original utility. These factors, in combination, can keep an idea going way past its expiry date until something breaks the status quo. The role of protestant-inspired ideologies about hard work, thrift and other assorted and irrelevant bullshit abate such behavior.

The second type of reason are based in human wretchedness. People like to believe that they are important individuals performing valuable services for others. The sad reality is that there is far more money to be made by deliberate impoverishment of certain people than by helping them. Entire classes of useless and dangerous occupations in our society from those in charitable organizations, social workers, cops, bureaucrats employed in providing social services derive a considerable part of their income and fat pensions from trying to address the problems of poverty.

It would be far easier, less expensive and much less disruptive to provide a stable middle-class humane existence to everyone regardless of race, occupation, luck or any other bullshit reason.

However a lot of people, especially the old and old-fashioned morons, would rather prefer to be involved in fighting a ‘war against poverty’ or against the intentionally deprived. Why try to fix something that creates a gravy train of purpose, jobs, pensions and umpteen opportunities for petty tyrants? The current state of affairs cannot, of course, go on forever as the real cost of such behaviors start to destabilize the system slowly rendering it too dysfunctional to exist.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. March 3, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    While I don’t think we’re at the point just yet where Post-Scarcity Economics justifies a GMI, it is without a doubt that the welfare state is worsening the situation of the poor, while providing a wide swath of middel class jobs.

    • Columnist
      March 3, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      Why do you think welfare is worse than GMI?

  2. webe
    March 3, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    A GMI would probably be cheaper than the current system, although I think it should imply some form of service in return (very dangerous and tricky demanding something in return, but also very problematical to get something for nothing as a social structure).

    The service they are offering is not killing you or fucking up the systems that keep you alive.

    You fail to mention the biggest contributor to artificial scarcity — capitalism itself. Competitive capitalism — especially when uncorrected by the force of law — will always result in artificial scarcity amidst plenty, as it always has. Not because it is evil (it’s amoral), but it’s simply fundamental to the dynamics, as John Dewey noted.
    It is not only the poor who cannot escape the dictates of increasing capital accumulation at the expense of rewards to labour, the rich are equally at the mercy of being left behind if they do not prove themselves unscupulous servants to a ruthless master. It’s a race to the the horizon.

    If you want to see Marx vindicated.. be my guest.

  3. March 4, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Once they said “charity”, they implied poverty and misery.

  4. March 5, 2012 at 9:14 am

    AD, check a new meme I’ve created:

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