Taxpayer-Directed Welfare

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137 Responses

  1. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    So, things that sound good would likely get overfunded (Head Start) while things that don’t sound too good to the average person but have a place (ie. Obamaphone) don’t get funded at all?

    Nah. Sorry, I don’t get this fetish for having the power to delineiate where every single dollar of their spending goes. Now, usually it just happens to be rich or upper middle class people complaining about money going to poor people in ways they don’t like (see again, Obamaphones, which are really Reaganphones).

    But, OK. I’ll take this deal. As long as not only are we doing it with welfare programs, but also Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Defense Department, and oh yeah, actual tax rates. If you think liberals are bad at tax policy, let’s see what happens when you hand it over to the average American.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Couldn’t do worse than the new winner of the Peace Prize.
      Figure they wanted to pass it out before the winner dissolves.
      /lurkReport

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Ah, you’re just mailing it in, Jesse. There’s not a sentence there that actually gives me any pause. Work up a real critique and give me a real challenge.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Well, maybe there’s a point there. The problem is not so much getting money to small charities, but that there are no truly large charities around. Suppose I want to send my dollars to an organization whose cause is “buy a wide range of health-care services on a continuous basis for the US poor.” TTBOMK, there isn’t one for me to direct my tax dollars to. For two reasons. First, because the government provides such a program (granted, that goes away in your scenario). But second, no private organization without some guarantees on revenue could risk assembling the infrastructure to implement such a program. Here in Colorado, Medicaid is a just-over $3B per year operation. MMIS computer systems for medium-sized states typically run about $400M to set up and $20-30M per year to maintain. The IT systems for a private health insurance charity company might be cheaper, but we don’t know that. No charity can afford to set up to provide the service that Medicaid provides in Colorado.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          As I said in the post, “[v]arious details would make the scheme work better or worse.” I’m not drawing a line in concrete and saying “this here precise set of things must, come hell or high water, be in the program.” If we get to the point of talking about which programs must be done through a public agency and which we might be able to do otherwise, I’ve achieved my primary goal.Report

  2. Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

    I’m assuming the Catholic Church wouldn’t qualify except insofar as it is tied directly to a specific charitable mission (that is more material than soul-saving)?Report

    • Avatar Pub Editor says:

      “The Catholic Church” writ large would not qualify, but specific sub-organizations (Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Inc.; St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen; The Fund for Retired Religious) might qualify.Report

  3. Avatar Robert Greer says:

    So this is like a forced charitable tax deduction?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Hmm, it is your taxes, so I don’t know if the deduction part quite works. But as to the real heart of your question, isn’t every penny of my taxes that goes to Medicaid a forced charitable contribution? We’re doing it already; I’m just suggesting giving us more control over what we’re paying for.Report

  4. Avatar Sam says:

    Something’s wonky with the byline, unless we’re not doing Guest Authors anymore.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Thank to Tod for coming up with an image for me, since I carelessly failed to supply him with one.Report

  6. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    I wonder how long it will take before some liberal either sneers at this as “libertopia”…

    Actually you did just play into M.A.’s hands. He was saying libertarians secretly wanted to nationalize charity or somesuch.

    The obvious reply is that we would sooner cut out the agency and just let people have full control over their own money.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Sure, this is all under the assumption that cutting out the federal agencies entirely is a political non-starter.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      I didn’t even bother responding to this thread till now, but you’re already attacking me and claiming I say things I didn’t say.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        I admit that I didn’t understand at all what you were trying to say on that other thread, so maybe I got it wrong. Fine, no problem. I’ll just quote it:

        Where I stopped caring about this was when I saw “libertarians”, the advocates of the Free Market Fairies that somehow fix everything, argue for centralized donation in order to most efficiently distribute charity and work towards medical research and other needed programs.

        We have a group that does this, of course, but it’s the one the same libertarians are always accusing of “taking money at gunpoint”, e.g. the one entity with the power to tax: government.

        There is obviously more than a passing resemblance between this quote and Hanley’s post.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Why are we stopping at welfare. Do the whole government that way, and deal with the consequences of soldiers being a whole lot cooler than diplomats.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I’m sticking to what I presume are implicit guidelines about this being a charity symposium.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        Considering we’re giving money to military contracters for stuff the DOD has said they don’t need, I’d call a signifigant part of our defense budget charity as well. 🙂Report

  8. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Can I prevent my money from going towards Lockhead Martin and the Military Industrial Complex?Report

  9. Avatar Chad says:

    Do charities cover all of the functions covered by welfare-type programs? There is a difference between a soup kitchen and a method of payment that is accepted at grocery stores. Or working with colleges for work training. Some major aspects of welfare programs work because they apply in places where the government already has it’s hooks. While choices are nice, I think it breaks down before that.Report

  10. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    “So what about a similar system on a larger scale? Disband our welfare agencies and create a charity agency. Set some portion of our taxes to be directed to it, and citizens could get online and distribute their charity-tax dollars as they wish.”

    Question: What happens to people such as developmentally disabled adults or other high-cost populations that non-family members in society prefer to pretend don’t exist and almost never are willing to donate to?

    It seems like something like cancer research, that already gets quite a bit of money – to the point that those in the field are quite highly compensated – would get tons more money… but those most in need of assistance would be SOL.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      The developmentally disabled are already the most screwed over by our government funded systems. One of my students did a very nice paper on this last year. The fundamental problem is that unlike physically disabled folks, the developmentally and otherwise cognitively disabled lack the capacity to organize and persuasively make their own case.

      Would it really be worse in a system where people could see who actually was getting well-funded and who was not? Maybe, but it’s not at all certain, given how absolutely wretched our current approach is doing in funding for those folks.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I have a lengthy reply to this in my head. It’s probably so lengthy I’m probably going to do a separate post.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller says:

        “Maybe, but it’s not at all certain–so let’s institute a massive change in government structure on the off chance that things won’t get worse!”

        If you think about that attitude, from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have your same degree of instinctive contempt towards government, I think you’ll understand the hostility to your proposal.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Is instinctive contempt toward government less defensible than instinctive contempt toward that government’s citizens? Since the legislators are selected by the citizens (to the extent they’re not simply selected by a capitalist elite), it seems illogical to have contempt for the citizens’ decision-making abilities, but lack contempt for those they decide to select for office.

          And if in fact you don’t have contempt for the citizens’ decision-making abilities, well, then your objection has at least a crack in its facade.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            The difference is, complete idiots with no understanding of how the government works don’t usually get major party nominations for Congress. So, even if somebody like Tim Scott gets elected to Congress and I disagree with every policy proposal he has, I still think he has a greater grasp on the budgetary needs of the nation than the median of his district.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Could be, although in fact I’m represented by one of those people.

              But seriously, how does a person get a major party nomination for Congress? It’s not by working through the party, because we don’t have a list proportional system. It’s done by appealing to the masses. “they took ur jubs, derk a dur” is a more effective political line than, “breast cancer research receives far more funding per cancer victim than cervical cancer.”Report

          • Avatar Dan Miller says:

            Of course, the same objection could run in reverse. If people are capable of solving a difficult coordination problem and agreeing on a more-optimal distribution of charitable effort than the existing welfare state, it’s hard to see why they couldn’t do the same thing through democratically elected government.

            More broadly, though, I think what sets off a lot of people is the…insouciance of your proposal (and I think you’re smart enough to know that). Government is more than a subject for intellectual discussion; it does actual work that people rely on frequently, and instituting a drastic change like this would do actual damage, even if you do think it would turn out for the better overall. You’re awfully blithe about that in the post.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Of course, I understand. Changes aren’t guaranteed to be superior to the status quo. Therefore, nobody ought to ever suggest them.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              You can be blithe about something that will never, ever happen.

              It’s one of the perks of being on the fringe of the political spectrum. You can criticize and suggest ivory tower solutions, and you’re never actually expected to solve any problems and your theories are never disproved by reality.

              The downside, of course, is if you do have a good idea it’s really hard to get traction on it. (On the other hand, the fringes produce more bad ideas than good, so maybe that’s a perk too)Report

              • Avatar Dan Miller says:

                Well said, but you’d think people would aspire to their ideas not being on the fringe. I struggle to keep track of when I can safely write off libertarianism as a thought experiment and when it’s a vital moral necessity.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                you’d think people would aspire to their ideas not being on the fringe.

                This is kind of a strange comment. It can either be read as “you’d think people would aspire to only hold mainstream ideas” or “you’d think people would aspire to move the mainstream toward holding their ideas.”Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              Why would such a program have to happen all at once? Phase it in over a decade. Every year people can designate an additional 5% of their federal tax bill (up to a max of 50%, say). As the charities move to fill needs with their new found funds, the government can study in detail what they need to keep doing, and where they can pare back.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Given the overwhelming state of apathy in our population, I would think that there would be a large number of people who would not be bothered to designate & whose charitable taxes would fall to the agency to distribute (well, maybe the first year or so they’d bother, but I bet most wouldn’t bother past that, too much work & look, Honey Boo-Boo is on!).

      So the un-popular charities would likely still be funded.

      Also, James mentions funding goals & met/unmet status. If a charities funding goals are met (after they’ve been approved by the agency, I would assume – no asking for $100B for the “Save the obscure field mouse” campaign unless you can justify the need, etc.), they are no longer eligible for additional tax monies (private donations are a different thing). So say Susan G Komen gets fully funded, then they can no longer have tax money tasked to them.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Are you KIDDING me??? No, about every single churchy sort would sit down, and designate the first churchy thing on there (so as to not give to the evil Planned parenthood — for that sort of church)
        And the liberals would sit down and enumerate.
        And the conservadems would sleep in and forget about it.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          Ergo, a large number of people do not designate (conservatives who are sleeping in), churchy things fill up fast and churchy folks have to start looking for other churchy things to donate to that don’t offend them, or just find non-churchy things that don’t offend them, and liberals can, confident in the knowledge that the churchy stuff is covered, and the agency has lots of un-designated funds to play with, focus on funding what matters to them.Report

          • Avatar Fnord says:

            To the extent that churchy things fill up fast, more churchy things will arise to fill the demand.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              Yes (& a very good point), but not instantaneously. Even if all the churchy things got fully funded through direct designations, more would not be able to arise until the next cycle. And then those new charities would have to advertise & make themselves known enough to actually capture funding. Ergo they’d get lost in the information overload. People can only dedicate so much time to finding alternative inoffensive charities before they’ll just have to decline to designate.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          Although, here is something that bugs me about the liberals here that are worried about funding for “un-popular” programs.

          Time & again liberals have pointed out that blue states send a whole lot of money to red states, which tells me that, on the whole, liberals generally have a lot more tax money to allocate than conservatives.

          So who cares if the Hateful Church Person who makes $35K a year (or less) doesn’t want to have her meager charitable taxes go to Planned Parenthood?Report

          • Avatar Dan Miller says:

            I’m not sure that the population of Connecticut would do that much better than the population of Alabama. It’s solving the coordination problems that’s the challenge, not that the wrong people will be allocating.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Do all coordination problems need to be solved centrally?Report

              • Avatar Dan Miller says:

                No, but some do!Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Less, I’d argue, than most people believe. Traditionally, one of the advantages of a centralized power was that it had access to more information. Now that its store of information can be cheaply disseminated, that advantage has dissipated. So the extent we’re looking at coordination problems whose main difficulty was an information shortfall, centralized decision-making has become less crucial.

                That’s not all coordination problems, of course. So the relevant question is what kind of problem is welfare/charity?Report

              • Avatar Alan Scott says:

                Information isn’t as cheap as all that, though. Because it may not cost money, but it still costs time.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Yes, but we’re paying the government to do it anyway. The dissemination of it isn’t that huge an added cost. E.g., my two favorite gov’t websites are bls.gov and bea.gov.Report

  11. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    So what about a similar system on a larger scale? Disband our welfare agencies and create a charity agency. Set some portion of our taxes to be directed to it, and citizens could get online and distribute their charity-tax dollars as they wish.

    The problem is that “services which are necessary and useful” and “services which people want to fund” do not necessarily accord with each other. Whether or not something is funded should depend on the good that it actually does, on the people that it actually helps, not purely on what people want to donate to.

    You’re treating welfare/social services as if they’re a service provided to donors, as opposed to a service provided to recipients, which is a ridiculous way of looking at it and shows an utter lack of concern for the actual beneficiaries of those services. The whole idea behind the welfare state is that basic social services shouldn’t be a matter of charity; they should be considered as things people are entitled to as citizens and members of society. That’s why they’re provided through tax dollars. People can allocate their own personal charitable donations however they wish.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      The problem is that “services which are necessary and useful” and “services which people politicians want to fund” do not necessarily accord with each other.

      Both versions are true, no?

      And notice that I’m not advocating for an end to funding through tax dollars, only a change in the decision-making process for distribution. Funding for services would not diminish a single penny under this scheme.

      I’m just puzzled at why we all think individuals would make lousy decisions, but politicians will make good decisions.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        If you think the social service infrastructure of every developed country on earth is based simply on the whims of a few politicians, you deeply misunderstand governance.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          No, but the whims of a few politicians looking to score political points can threaten & destroy whole sections of social services.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Katherine, I’ve been studying government for too long now to believe that politicians are driven by some objective consideration of what is good and right and just, unless what is good and right and just is what motivates the voters. Oh, there’s no doubt they often believe they’re doing what is good and right and just…when they try to require a vaginal ultrasound before an abortion, for example, or when they try to require drug testing before receiving government assistance, or when they design a food stamp program which has as its primary purpose not the provision of food for the poor but subsidies for farmers, or when they put in a hard 5 year cap on welfare payments, irrespective of the severity and length of recessions, or when they give special favoritism to faith-based programs.Report

          • Avatar Dan Miller says:

            It’s a long way from “politicians sometimes do things that are misguided and/or evil” to “the likelihood of good policy is so remote that we should dynamite our entire government structure and hope something better emerges from the chaos”.

            After all, James, Medicare exists, and it’s the cheapest way to provide health care. Highways and subways and ports exist, and the world is better off than it would be if their provision was left to the private sector. Government does a lot of things wrong, but under your mental model, it seems impossible that government could do anything right, when that’s demonstrably false.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              we should dynamite our entire government structure

              As you said above, “That’s a pretty strained reading of my comment.”Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Time, of course. We pay pols to sit around all day and make decisions. THEY pay more people to sit around and tell them how to vote (yes, some of this is lobbyists. they’;re getting paid too by the pol, in a twisted sense.)Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        True. Under the current system, charities not only have to spend money advertising to the general public, but also to lobby politicians. Under James scheme, charities would only have to advertise, politicians would have no influence or control over the money.

        I’d love it if I never had to hear another debate of idiots on CSPAN about the supposed services Planned Parenthood provides, or NPR/PBS.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        I’m just puzzled at why we all think individuals would make lousy decisions, but politicians will make good decisions.

        I’m not so sure it’s all as cut and dried as that.

        Individuals make… well, let’s be charitable and say ‘dubious’ decisions. Politicians do, too.

        However, I may (may!) feel like I can appeal to a politician when I might not be able to appeal to the aggregate mass of faceless “you”s out there. (This might be a baseless feeling, but certainly some people feel this way).

        I can go to school board meetings and join my local school’s site council and my wife can join the PTA and we can agitate for better funding for public schools. I might not be able to get any significant number of people to agree with me, in your model, whereas I might get enough significant numbers of people to agree with me, in the current model, that we can all show up and scare the crapola out of the school board and encourage them to vote a certain way.

        Power leverages in different ways, depending upon how it is embodied.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Very true. Unfortunately the dividing line between “can persuade masses” and “can better persuade politicians” is not closely related to “got a good policy I’m pitching.”

          It is in fact the ability to leverage politicians that I’m trying to cut against.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        The potential improvement with politicians making the decisions is that they are, theoretically, based on data collected and analyzed by people with expertise. Hopefully pols are taking testimony and/or relying on information from the appropriate branch of gov who works with whatever population in question so they know what the heck they are talking about.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Theoretically. Have you watched a congressional hearing lately? They’re generally stocked with hand-picked witnesses, cherry-picked data, and more declamations from the committee members than actual questions.

          Data will determine how legislators vote just as soon as data votes.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Yeah that is the obvious answer that has some truth to it. I’d say actual decisions are made based on data more than you believe and less than i would like.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              No, not more than I believe, because I actually do believe the data has more effects than I let on here. But it’s impossible to be entirely sanguine about it. For example, John Boehner wasn’t pushing for continuation of the alternative engine program for the joint strike fighter because of any data other than employment numbers in his district.

              Now if we’re talking about executive branch agencies, as opposed to legislators, data becomes much more significant in decision-making.Report

  12. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Proceeding just from the story that kicks this post off, hell yes.

    When I was at Berkeley, I suggested to one of the ASUC reps pretty much what James said. A large percentage of my money was going to political groups I had no sympathy for, which seemed very wrong. The answer was that a lot of those groups had little support among the students, so they’d get nothing. So? So, they only had tables at Sproul Plaza because they were subsidized. So? So, the Free Speech Movement had fought very hard to give them the right to have tables in the Plaza, and if they went away it would have been all for naught. So? So, did I believe in free speech or not? I snarled something about “free yes, expensive no” and gave up.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Well, I do tend to think that if a university wants to make tables available to the Good People Together club, it should make tables available to Team Evil. If GPT can sign up for a conference room in the library, Team Evil should also be able to sign up for a conference room in the library.

      Mostly because we have a tendency to realize, too late, that GPT wasn’t *THAT* good and that Team Evil was really not *THAT* bad and provision of a table was, at the end of the day, something that colleges do for sophomores.Report

  13. Avatar greginak says:

    So would we assume the advertising charities would have to do would be conducted with as much dignity and efficiency as our prez campaigns. Would this result in a rush to gobble up the best celebs. If a charity can get a Kardashian they are set although i’m guessing bigger boobs will still get more money. If your charity gets Snooki then i hope you don’t have a big problem to solve.Report

  14. Avatar trizzlor says:

    There seems to be an implicit assumption here about the wisdom of crowds that doesn’t necessarily apply. As KatherineMW pointed out above, most of the people selecting where their money goes will not be the recipients of the product. So while my decision to continue buying Apple products is a great indicator that Apple has enriched my life in a meaningful way, my decision to continue donating to Toys4Tots isn’t necessarily an indicator of Toys4Tots utility to it’s recipients or recipients as a whole. Even if we assume that the unmet needs reports that I base my decision on will be unbiased and accurate, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to spend as much time perusing them as an elected official tasked with that role. I doubt that decision quality is additive: 10 Senators spending a day on these reports would surely come up with a more utilitarian answer than 10 million citizens spending 5 minutes. Isn’t that the whole idea of representative democracy over referendum? Without a direct, market-based relationship between product and payment, I think you need to provide some evidence that crowd-sourcing is the more efficient solution.

    I can think of a few other minor weaknesses that could probably be engineered out:

    1) Without central planning, it’s difficult to negotiate XOR-type decisions: I want my money to go to NASA or NSF (but not both) based on whichever is closest to meeting their need, if neither can meet their need then I want my money to go to the NIH (which I feel is better served by an incomplete budget). This kind of negotiation is fairly straightforward when you’re planning a budget, but very difficult when you’re voting by referendum.

    2) A significant amount of overhead now goes to advertising the charity to the voter that could have been going directly to the entitlement.

    3) Many similar charities would spring up and compete over shared services, eventually one would win but at the cost of much redundancy during the process.

    4) Longitudinal budgets become more difficult. Currently, NASA could petition for a 10-year project to go to Mars and, if successful, be fairly secure in receiving that money over the entire period. In the market, such a project would be much more volatile (meaning high-quality employees wouldn’t want to work on it) and NASA would have to re-petition for money every year (meaning even more overhead going to advertising).

    5) At some point, why wouldn’t me and my community just hire a bunch of people to make these decision for me … and then we’re right back where we started.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Now that’s how to write a critique.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      I’d agree with you 100% if I had any confidence that our Reps or Senators actually looked at such data, or paid someone to look at such data, rather than base their decisions upon which lobbyist took them out for the nicest dinner.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      1) Solved with real time access to funding levels. If Amazon can tell me right now exactly how many items are in stock across multiple sellers, we can build a web service that can give a taxpayer real time access to charitable funding levels. Logistically, it could go like this: every taxpayer, when they submitted their taxes, got their auth code to the website & choose their distributions. If they e-file, they get an email in 24 hours with the code. Send them in by mail, and you get the code back ASAP by mail (or in an email, if you included an email in your return). Once you use the auth code, you got 48 hours to make your choices, before you fail to designate & the agency distributes based upon need.

      2) As opposed to how much already goes to advertising AND lobbying.

      3) Market at work – mitigated with a phase in period (I mentioned that somewhere up above).

      4) This is the one that would prevent a system that would allow us to designate 100% of our tax bill as we saw fit. Still, a portion could be designated by the taxpayer.

      5) That would be your choice. People like me, I’d want to designate & the option to do so makes me feel better about my government.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        These are all very elegant solutions MRS, I have a few general pedantic comments:

        Each of these solutions makes the system more complicated, which in-turn either lowers the number of participants or the quality of their participation. Take your strategy in (1) to it’s logical end and you’ve turned every voter into a legislator; obviously unworkable since the average person has less time to think about legislature than the average legislator (and I would argue that the best people have the least free time). Again, you’re going to have to present evidence that the new independence from lobbyists is a greater good than the significantly lowered time/knowledge investment. And this is really my point: I know plenty of projects on which 5 minutes of time yields 0% understanding and 10 minutes of time yields 95% understanding, and I’m really worried that you’re losing 535 people who do the latter for millions of people who would do the former.

        On (2) I think you’re mistaken. I’ve seen a number of statistics that show advertising per fee for healthcare to be significantly higher for private companies than for Medicare/VA . Indeed, I believe the new health-care law specifically limits this ratio to get private insurers in-line with the kind of efficiency the state is able to provide. Let me know if I’m wrong, but even according to your formulation a steak dinner by a lobbyist should cost a lot less than a national ad campaign.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Serious question, Trizzler: In your opinion, is there anything about the current fiscal negotiations in D.C. that would lead you to believe that a significant majority of legislators are operating based on objective information?Report

          • Avatar trizzlor says:

            Sorry it took me a while to get to this, Hanley.

            I think it’s very difficult for us to understand how much of what we hear about the sequester negotiations is actually happening and how much of it is what we are meant to believe is happening. In previous debt/shutdown debates, the eventual outcome has generally been a pretty reasonable middle-ground, which suggests to me that the outcomes (at least) are not as dysfunctional as the process appears. To be blunt, I still don’t think that a referendum on budgets would yield better results than budget negotiations.

            But even if the current negotiations reflect poorly on legislators, that doesn’t detract significantly from the many many positive and efficient interactions that I have with the government on a regular basis. My welfare happens to be in the in the form of NIH/NSF grants, which have supported me in some form since I started working. And for all of the academic hand-wringing over the arcane granting process, these things are true: excellent science consistently gets funded; the majority of private-sector development comes from public sector research; the US scientific funding opportunities are the envy of the western world; most importantly, these agencies continuously yield major discoveries that would be impossible otherwise (ARPANET, Human Genome Project/NHGRI, ITER, Digital Library/Google).

            Those are the losses I imagine when you propose turning welfare into Kickstarter. In the same way that these science agencies function efficiently even though they answer to those awful Senators, traditional entitlements like WIC/SNAP/EBT are also ecosystems full of technocrats looking for the best way of getting money to need. Unless you can demonstrate that entitlements are somehow a very different beast from our successful efforts in funding science, I’ll take those outcomes and suffer through the post-election preening in D.C any day.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          I know plenty of projects on which 5 minutes of time yields 0% understanding and 10 minutes of time yields 95% understanding, and I’m really worried that you’re losing 535 people who do the latter for millions of people who would do the former.

          & my point is that these 535 people are not doing their job, and the 535 people willfully remain at the 0% mark the majority of the time.

          Case in point, Maxine Waters, a Rep who can not coherently explain even the simplest financial concepts, is now the ranking democrat on the house committee that overseas the financial industry. She was placed for political reasons, not because she has any specialized knowledge that would make her a good candidate for such a position.Report

          • Avatar trizzlor says:

            Perhaps we’re at an impasse, but I find this hard to believe. Whatever you think of Congresswoman Waters, she’s won the vote of her constituents many times (which means she’s not completely nuts – there’s a reason first-term congressmen don’t get ranking positions), she has a large staff working full-time, and she has easy access to the smartest people in the country. Those facts alone significantly raise her profile over even an informed voter.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              Seeing as how hard it is in general to unseat incumbents, an elected official can be pretty close to completely nuts & still be in office, as long as they are on the ball enough to know how to rouse their constituency.

              Having staff and access to the smartest people in the world is useless if your mind is too closed off to make good use of them. I mean, if that was all it took, I would never hear talk from elected officials about how Evolution is only a theory.Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      “At some point, why wouldn’t me and my community just hire a bunch of people to make these decision for me … and then we’re right back where we started.”

      No. Because there will be competing entities offering to make decisions for us. The dynamic will be totally different than where we are now.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        This seems like a common libertarian solution: all issues of information asymmetry will be solved by a cottage industry of ratings agencies. Setting aside the fact that this merely abstracts the problem by one dimension (now I only have to research hundreds of ratings agencies instead of thousands of charities) it doesn’t address the primary market failure: that the ratings agency evaluates for me a product (charity) which I never actually use.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          The thing about Ratings agencies is that it isn’t always clear who the customer is. If the customer is the consumer then there is more pressure for clarity, openness and to not be beholden to the business they are rating. However if the real customer is the business that are supposed to be judging.. cough… S and P and other financial ratings agencies…cough then that twists the incentives until the rating are less useful.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      There seems to be an implicit assumption here about the wisdom of crowds that doesn’t necessarily apply.

      You have just described why libertarianism fails logically, in a single sentence.Report

  15. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    How would you handle evaluating the efficacy of any given charity? Would there be a specific government agency that would set up metrics? How would we make sure such metrics would be useful for the consumer?

    Also, at some point we’d likely create a cottage industry of tax-filers whose job would be to make decisions in lieu of taxpayers actually going out of their way to research who to fund. (A subset of the accounting industry I’d imagine, perhaps it’d be part of your tax-filing?)

    In the end you’d probably end up with a quasi-bureaucratic structure with the same power dynamics and entrenched interest group work that happens now, perhaps with an added layer of inefficiency from the jockeying for the third party tax-filers.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      And none of this of course touches the problem of redundancy and added overhead cost from multiple organizations working toward similar goals. Further if the development aid example is anything to go by, you see substantial areas of unmet needs as small scale NGOs work to meet niche areas that don’t coordinate well with larger efforts to alleviate systemic problems.

      Slick marketing can bring in dollars, but if charitable spending in the US is any indication, bringing in dollars and being a good charitable organization have very little in common. Livestrong for example has pulled in a lot of money, but the amount of good it’s done vis cancer research has been negligible due to the fact that it simply doesn’t fund much research and spends a ton of administrative and overhead costs.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Excellent thoughts, as I’d expect from you, Nob. But I’m going to argue straight up that you’re falling for an old trap in your “redundancy” argument. The assumption that scaling up is straightforward, that there are always economies of scale, is not for the serious policy student. Especially when we’re talking about programs that are essentially labor intensive, rather than capital intensive.

        Some of Elinor Ostrom’s early work was on economies of scale in police departments. Back in the ’70s everyone was arguing for consolidation of police departments in regions with multiple municipalities. Close study showed an irrefutable conclusion–the economies of scale weren’t there, and small police departments actually had faster response times and a larger proportion of their force out on the street instead of behind desks. This was shown both in middle-class white dominant sections of Indianapolis and its small enclave cities and in black-lower class dominant sections of Chicago and socio-economically similar suburbs.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          In this case I’m thinking less on scale than I’m thinking on scope.

          In fact I’d imagine that under this scheme there’d be a large number of national charities, but those numbers would also focus on a specific narrow subset of service provision rather than a breadth of services that can provide a more holistic solution to the problem that’s local in scale.

          There is, too the issue of competition which leads to things like witholding data and backroom politicking, but that happens even with government agencies, so that’s not as important.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Actually, I like the idea of competition. You focus only on the bad aspects of it, and not on the good aspects. Competition can lead to more information being disseminated–people might demand to know how much a charity is spending on overheard and how much on their mission before they give to it. An organization might spring up to provide that information. It could be called, oh, I don’t know, a charity navigator or something like that.

            I’ll be honest, I think there’s a tendency among liberals to downplay the value, and overplay the problematic aspects, of competition. It’s one of my top critiques.

            As to breadth of services, we don’t really have a government agency that provides real breadth of services. Those services tend to get divided among agencies and subagencies. We even have multiple programs just for delivering food to the poor–SNAP (formerly food stamps), WIC, and the occasional direct hand out of government purchased food (usually surplus dairy products, of which our gov’t buys massive quantities to keep a surplus of dairy farmers in business).

            It could be that greater breadth of services–a more wholistic and integrated system–would be superior. There are policy areas where that’s true (like ecosystem management), and I know just barely enough about welfare to have reason to think it’s true there as well. But it’s certainly not what we have now.Report

            • Avatar zic says:

              Fascinating, this:
              As to breadth of services, we don’t really have a government agency that provides real breadth of services. Those services tend to get divided among agencies and subagencies. We even have multiple programs just for delivering food to the poor–SNAP (formerly food stamps), WIC, and the occasional direct hand out of government purchased food (usually surplus dairy products, of which our gov’t buys massive quantities to keep a surplus of dairy farmers in business).

              Have you ever wondered why this happens? It’s built in to the way Democracy and functions. And much of it stems from the tension between two impulses, two parties — liberals wanting to help, conservatives saying not too much. So we compromise, and create all these rules for each particular bit of help that have eligibility requirements, report-back requirements, funding limits, and the result is ever more and more fractal growth of what’s delivered. In nature, such growth is typically efficient. In the linear systems humans evoke, not so much.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I have thought about it, but I don’t think the dynamics are really about liberals v. conservatives. It’s more about the complexity of a broader-based approach. For example, ecosystem management makes more sense, thinking broadly, than just focusing on saving a particular species, because of the interconnected nature of everything in the ecosystem, flora, fauna, water and soil. But that interconnectedness makes it really complex to try to figure out how to deal with it on that scale. It’s far more comprehensible to say, “let’s save this particular little fishy that’s dwindled in numbers,” and hope for positive spillover effects from those efforts.

                Likewise with welfare, the reasons people are poor really are much less about capitalism than about a host of other factors, including natural capacities, lack of education, poor health, childhood emotional trauma, alcoholism/drug abuse, etc. A truly effective system, I assume, would probably deal with all of those things. But that’s really complex, so almost no legislator really can figure out how to design a program that can handle all those things. And the moment one does, it’s a hard sell to all the others, many of whom can’t comprehend the scope of it, others of whom want to ride their pet hobbyhorse of just providing more education, or excluding anyone with drug problems, etc. That doesn’t break down that well on just liberal/conservative lines. I will say that liberals are more likely to believe in the value of a wholistic approach than are conservatives, at least in my experience, but even then there’s nothing like a majority of Democratic legislators seriously proposing that approach, because even when it may sound good in concept to them, they’re unable to really comprehend how to design the details of such a program.

                It’s just far easier for legislators to grasp a single clear-cut program (provide rental housing assistance to people under $X income per year), and it’s a lot easier to design a program that does that one particular thing well than to design one that does the broader scope problem-solving well.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I concur. Though there are dangers to a holistic approach, there are valid gauges we can use to measure outcomes, much as keeping an eye on the apex predators gives us yardsticks for the rest of the ecosystem. The return of the wolves to Yellowstone led to profoundly beneficial changes to that ecosystem, changes nobody had expected at the time.

                I keep returning to the bare-knuckles approach of turning people into taxpayers as the fundamental guide to a social safety net. If the goal is get someone employed and productive, it’s hard for even the most scrooge-like to oppose such a scheme — but there must be a meaningful measure of success in place.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                there must be a meaningful measure of success in place.

                Yes. And that’s been a struggle for many organizations, both public and private. Many measure success by the amount of output–so many miles of road built, so many meals served, so many houses built–because those are actual and observable numbers, so they can readily be measured. But they may or may not be meaningful.

                To riff of the old aphorism, give a man a fish and you can measure how many fish your organization has given out.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                turning people into taxpayers as the fundamental guide to a social safety net.

                I agree with this, though there’s some discussion that needs to happen on the responsibilities of former-tax payers who’ve retired.

                A great example is early child-hood education — and child care. I fail to see why we are not combining these two functions, and why we’re not subsidizing child care for working families at far greater rates.

                And one of the most conservative states, Oklahoma, leads on this one:
                http://okpolicy.org/in-the-know-how-oklahoma-came-to-lead-the-nation-in-pre-school-accessReport

              • Avatar zic says:

                Hey, good prof., speaking to the student in a frame they comprehend.

                The binary of liberal/conservative tension does consistently play out, because we’re unable to comprehend how to design the details of a complex system. It’s akin to the problem of designing artificial intelligence — the processes have to be fractal, and we get stuck designing linear/binary.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                It’s like developing a compiler for self-modifying code. It needs to be self-modifying as well.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          How much inter-departmental (inter-city) coordination was going on, then?Report

  16. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    Wouldn’t this proposal suffer all of the same problems as direct democracy initiatives.

    People in CA just don’t have the time to figure out whether, say, money should go for a hospital seismic-retrofit. Those that do have time often find themselves lacking information to make the decisions. The whole ballot system is a mess, especially on issues that involve technocratic details and cash. (The pure moral issues like euthanasia that evryone hears about and that are less technical work better on direct democracy, IMO.)

    I can just imagine my grandma trying to figure out if the Red Cross has enough cash or if her cash would be better spent on Oxfam or Medicaid.

    Charities would need to raise more money to compete for popular support, all of it wasted cash.

    Count me down as a believer that technocratic bureaucrats are good for some things and representative democracy has some advantages (along with its problems).

    BTW, would you be okay with Fed Policy being set by direct voting along the same lines as charitable spending? If not, how is fed policy different than welfare state spending, except in degree of importance?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Shaz,

      I get your point about attention/information gathering. I learned to loathe direct democracy in California. But part of the (previously unstated) working assumption here is that everyone has some degree of existing preference that can be played off of. And of course to the extent they don’t, and it’s so overwhelming they just don’t bother to make the decisions, their funds are left to Congress to distribute. Everyone seems to keep missing that. In a sense, this is a program that doesn’t demand anything of those who don’t care to pay attention, but provides opportunity to those who do.

      As to technocratic bureaucrats, they’re not the budget setters. They’re not at stake here, so let’s please not confuse issues.

      Fed policy is fundamentally different. That is a technocratic decision, and it’s a single policy decision that affects everyone in the country. My proposal is about priorities; what types of welfare citizens think deserves funding and what they don’t think deserves funding. That’s not technocratic in the same way Fed policy is; it’s about values, and what technocrats cannot do competently is tell us what values we ought to have.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        And there’s the difference. You think Fed Policy is important enough for people who have gone to school to learn about economics and such to be in charge. Which is totally understandable. On the other hand, you believe basically, social welfare spending is as important as toilet paper or the latest XBox, so it can be fought over in the arena of commercialism. I disagree.

        If I really wanted to be snarky, I’d say that Fed policy might actually affect your life, so you dare not put it in the hands of the populace. On the other hand, your life won’t change that much if a Midnight Basketball or dare I say, broadband Internet subsidy for poor people gets underfunded.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          On the other hand, you believe basically, social welfare spending is as important as toilet paper or the latest XBox, s

          It’s awfully thin ice, both intellectually and personally, to try to tell another person what they believe.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

        Fair points James.

        One point of disagreement. I our representative democracy we vote on values and priorites broadly construed, with very little idea of what we are getting in policy specifics. That is, you vote Dem and you get increased or level (depending on the year, really) welfare state spending. Vote R and you lower or keep level taxes and cut or keep level welfare spending. The representatives then meet with policy-informed people on their staff to create a bill, which is weighed in on by special interests, which may or not be killed for political reasons by the very representatives we elected.

        IMO, if you have the people directly try to craft policy, the conversation between the policy wonks and the deciders (voters in your proposal, elected reps as is) on the specifics will get all muddled because the people will not know what they are doing.

        A better policy might be to have a body of independent experts propose, say, 5 sets of policies about welfare spending, each of which represent a different set of values, then have people vote to pick one of the 5 policies directly. That way the individual choices of voters don’t shape the details of the policy, but rather they choose the policy that best reflects their values.

        I am still against that, cause direct democracy blows, but it is more appealing to me than your more radical proposal.Report

      • Avatar Fnord says:

        Sure, if people who don’t have strong preferences really will just leave it up to Congress. If only people who pay enough attention to make an informed decision participate in the process. Is that the way it works with voting? Or, for that matter, voluntary charitable giving?Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          So is Shazbot’s well-reasoned argument an argument against voting and voluntary giving?Report

          • Avatar Fnord says:

            If you’re not informed about the choices, yes. The whole problem of uninformed giving and the need to do research ties in with Mr. Kuznicki’s post about charity.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              So given that the great majority of people are not ever going to become well-informed, should they be barred from voting and voluntary charitable giving?Report

              • Avatar Fnord says:

                I didn’t see you defending direct democracy, either. I guess we can join the anti-democratic party together.

                Seriously, the idea that direct popular control of government has problems is hardly controversial. See, eg, the Constitution and the entire concept of representative democracy. Of course, any government attempt to block low-information voters is asking for abuse. But that doesn’t mean voter ignorance is an imaginary problem.

                As for uninformed charitable donations, if someone wants to waste money, it’s their money to waste. But if we’re talking about replacing the welfare state, that’s a problem.Report

  17. Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

    I can’t work up sneer, but will ask “Why?”

    What is the goal of this change?
    Who is the intended beneficiary? The public at large? The recipients of the charity? The donors?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      It’s a good and fair question, and I hope you’ll forgive me for declining to give a direct answer. Sometimes it’s best to just continue a conversation and see if the answers work themselves out more organically.Report

      • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

        I only asked, to avoid presupposing too much.

        Obviously I am not keen on the idea, but the post does illustrate thoughts I have mentioned before.

        For instance:
        There are 3 main stakeholders in government charity- the Donors, the Recipients, and the Public;
        In the post, who gets mentioned? Only the Donors. Their interests are discussed, and presumably improved. They gain agency and choice.
        The Recipients? Are their lives improved? The Public? Is society overall better off?

        Dunno. No mention of the second two stakeholders is given. Its weird, actually- its not like the argument is being presented that this will benefit all 3 stakeholders; or that it will benefit 1, or 2, at the expense of the third, and this is acceptable for reasons x, y, and z.

        Its as if only the interests of the first stakeholder are even worthy of consideration, or that their benefit is so self-evidently obvious we don’t need to hear any argument for it.

        Instead we are invited to opine on this Process, stripped of any discussion of outcomes or purpose.

        So I can only conclude that the point of the post was to provoke opinons, not of the Process, but of the goal.

        So here is mine- the purpose of government charity is to alleviate a problem- poverty broadly, or poor health, nutrition, specifically and thereby bring abenefit to the Public.

        The needs of the other 2 stakeholders need to be balanced and addressed, but the primary stakeholder in the situation is the Public, first and foremost. Whatever process results in the greatest benefit to the Public is (generally) one I would favor*.

        *certainconditionsapplyconsultyourowner’smanualfordetail.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          LWA,

          I actually appreciate the question and your response behind it. But in fact I do have a purpose in asking people to opine on the process stripped of outcomes or purpose, but it’s not to focus on the goal itself. It’s more about our understanding of government, and the relationship between citizens and policy.Report

    • 1. The goal of this change is eliminating the federal government, at least as we currently understand it.

      2. The intended beneficiaries are the wealthy first, and maybe everybody else second, although, if we’re being honest, everybody else can take a long walk off a short pier. It would be the wealthy who’d most benefit (they’d direct higher taxation toward themselves and their regions); it’d be the poorest who’d most suffer (since they collectively pay so little in taxation, they’d have next to nothing to put back into their communities). Meanwhile, all of the little things that society requires to function as we currently understand it – annoying things like garbage collection and roads and clean water and etc. – would wither and die. Which is the point. Err, no, wait, I mean everybody benefits!Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

        I agree with a lot of this, but direct democracy might have the opposite effect in the long run, with some large pluarity of people voting for more and more benefits for themselves. Could be the road to serfdom or socialism.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        The goal of this change is eliminating the federal government, at least as we currently understand it.

        The intended beneficiaries are the wealthy first,

        Nobody misunderstands me as well as you do, Sam. 😉Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          In fact, Sam, I’m curious how you think a program that doesn’t change taxation levels one bit is intended to benefit the wealthy. I’m not following the logic on that one, so perhaps you could clarify it for me?Report

          • Avatar Sam says:

            I’ve already explained that the wealthy will funnel all of their paid taxes back into themselves and their own communities. We’d see new and ridiculous charities emerge – “Wealthy Without Yachts” and “Homeowners Without Car Elevators” – and the money would go there. Or, given the general mendacity of the wealthy, they’d cut out the middleman on ridiculousness like that and simply set up boomerang charities that would immediately return the tax dollars back to the wealthy individuals; this would probably be headed up by Grover Norquist or somebody similar and we’d have to stomach decades of being told that this sort of thing was good for the economy.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              True. All true. Carnegie never built libraries, Bill Gates never created an endowment to do something or other for folks who aren’t rich, etc. Worth a look. Also this. Yes, the rich give a smaller share of their wealth to charity than the poor; that doesn’t mean they don’t give.

              I’ll be honest, I don’t give any credence at all to any comment that says “All people in [that particular group] are [bad in whatever way I want to emphasize].” I think it’s lazy and self-indulgent thinking. You could have taken two minutes to google what charitable organizations the rich give to,* but you didn’t bother.

              *Certainly you might think the wealthy aren’t giving to the right causes, and the targeting of their giving in that sense could be a legitimate critique of my proposal. But giving they are, and not just to organizations that help the already wealthy.Report

              • Avatar Sam says:

                Mitt Romney’s campaign for president was built on a foundation of donations from wealthy contributors. Those donors were seeking his election because him winning would mean radically lower tax rates for themselves. They weren’t being charitable; they were investing in an outcome that would benefit themselves and their bottom lines.

                This charity scheme arrives at the same outcome by a different path. Would some money be directed toward charities? Maybe. Would more money end up right back in the hands of the same wealthy people who loathe the idea of “takers” getting like “makers” giving? Absolutely.

                Or do you really expect me to believe that the Grover Norquists of the world – when they say they want to “drown government in a bathtub” – have the concerns of anybody but the wealthy in mind? This country has a paralytic concern about the well-being of its wealthy, and despite them being incredibly rich, we’re still debating policies designed to give these people (who won’t want for anything) more.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Jeez, Sam, nobody doubts the wealthy are interested in their own interests. But you haven’t demonstrated that they don’t also have an interest in charitable contributions.Report

              • Avatar Sam says:

                We’re not talking about charitable donations though. We’re talking about the distribution of taxation. These are two entirely different issues.Report

  18. Avatar zic says:

    Are you familiar with the Town Farms of early New England?

    These were farms, owned by the town collectively, places for the poor to live; a tax-funded charity instead of welfare. Since I live in Maine, I once asked DeLorme, a map company, how many ‘Town Farm Roads’ there were within the state; and they had a list of over 130. That’s not counting the variations such as poor farm.

    If you’re having visions of Les Mis, please coddle them. Now I’m sure this time would be different; but in the past, and the not too distant past, when welfare was charity and supported by taxes in much the way James is describing, the mentally ill, the outright sociopathic, and the impoverished were all mixed together on these farms. Women, who’s only sins were being widowed and poor and mothers, found themselves caring for all these ailments of society. Their children grew up there. I’ve read one research paper (not available on line) that documented the problems, and they were not pretty.

    So James, I like your vision; in a bright happy world where we all make good choices and share the care of others without condemnation or approbation.

    But the not so recent past bears studying first.

    As a child, we had family friends who lived on what had once been a poor farm. The mother was an artist; and I remember her very fondly. The father worked in the woods, a logger/forester. They had six sons, for they were good Catholics, and no daughters. My memories of this family are absolutely overwhelmed by the stigma associated with where they lived. When you drive around rural towns here, the long-term class differences are obvious; the neighborhoods of town farms are sparsly developed, and that’s more recent, and poorer. In some towns, the land near a town farm still has little value.

    That social stench, so strong that it permeates a five-year old’s perceptions and distorts them, prevents development and the accumulation of wealth even 75 years after the farm is no a public charity, deserves consideration.

    But I do like your vision. I’d be most happy if it came with the right to not fund some things with my tax dollars, including the military industrial complex and war on drugs. But my hot reaction to the memory of a memory of someone living on a town farm suggests there’s some other warping that happens. It happened at almes houses, it still happens in subsidized public housing.Report

  19. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    I’m not sure I fully understand this.

    What does “Xach” mean? Apologies if I’m just an old guy who doesn’t understand kids these days.

    Xach charitable organization’s request, and the amount already donated to that request, be clearly visible and updated in real timeReport

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      It could be code for “Times, [they are] a-ch[anging]”.

      Or it could be a typo for “Each”.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      D’oh! A typo. I only wish Xach was some clever technically precise word.

      By the way, J.H.G., I will respond in a couple of days; sorry for the delay.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        I only wish Xach was some clever technically precise word.

        I was concerned that it was. No one mentioned it in the comments, and the Great Gazoogle couldn’t explain it. It is not uncommon that I need to look up references from time to time, but that one seemed a little too dissimilar. Perhaps, it should become a WOTL.*

        There is no rush, Mr. Hanley. I am happy enough that you offered to help.

        *(Word Of The League)Report

  20. Avatar Major Zed says:

    a bunch of half-educated testosterone-fueled adolescents who would be leaving the organization before they had to deal with the full consequences of their decisions.

    That… kind of sounds… like Congress.Report

  21. Avatar Matty says:

    Not wanting to disappoint.

    It’s libertopia, also it’s not libertopia so you should really call yourself a liberal or a conservative.Report

  22. Avatar GordonHide says:

    I think this post assumes that charity giving as opposed to state controlled redistribution of wealth is an unalloyed good thing. That is not the case. Leaving apart the problem that money goes to the sentimentally appealing rather than the most needy, charity confirms inequality of power as well as wealth in society. It can lead to self righteousness, resentment and a sense of hopeless powerlessness and additional anxiety amongst the poor.

    Of course the entitlement and dependency culture has its own dangers but that’s another story.Report

  23. Avatar Kim says:

    James,
    What percentage of charity in America currently goes to lining the pockets of the giver?
    If you implemented this scheme, do you expect that to change?

    Because I would. 5-20% reduction in actual money going to charity. That would be my bet, at any rate.Report