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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Charity and the Logic of Collective Action

Last week in class someone made a suggestion that government should just let charity take care of giving the poor what they need. If the objective is to truly provide the needed amount of aide to the poor then charity alone will never be enough. People in a large group, in this case the wealthy, will tend to assume that other people will do the work. This free-rider problem is prevalent in large groups because the amount of people that are involved in the group. Large groups of people are far harder to organize than smaller ones. Summing up Mancur Olsen's explanation of this topic, people who are intrinsically motivated to give and find a personal benefit in giving away money will give because they in their own minds are acting rationally, but those who do not feel that giving money to charity is a rational decision will not give their money. Even though those who think charity is a good thing will often not give because they figure someone else will take care of the needy. If the goal of public policy is to provide the poor with enough money to not be "poor" then relying on charity will not be enough. Hopefully this provides some insight for those who haven't taken the glorious Power and Prosperity class.

Comments:
Perhaps, but I think what we were getting at was that it's *not* the goal of public policy to provide for the poor. I don't think that's the role or even a role of government, because it's essentially forced charity, since the money comes from taxes--or, in other words, redistribution of wealth, which leaves a sour taste in my mouth for one. But then, I'm a pretty big believer in "government please stay the heck out of my business," so I guess it's fair to say that it's a matter of the varying assumptions different people make about the proper role of government.

I think the point that was made in class about private charity was based on the idea that someone derives a personal feeling of benefit from someone else's well-being, though. Which works just fine with what you said, 'cause if you feel better by giving, you give, and if you don't, you don't. *shrug*
 
Hey Spencer I do think you have some really good points on this subject but at what point does taking money from the wealthy and giving to the poor stop, or how far should it go? how do we define what is needed for the poor?
 
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