Dead Men Left

Friday, January 07, 2005

Samuel Smiles would be proud: death to welfare

Direland has a short post on the "insidious" use by the Bush administration of the tsunami as "downsizing propaganda". Doug writes:

The Bush 1/Clinton tandem brought to stand at Dubya's side as bi-partisan cover [for government-led charity initiatives] actually represents part of the Republicans' continuing offensive to down-size government by shunting its proper functions to private sector groups. This notion is the exact opposite of the concept of government developed in the civilized Western democracies over the last century and a quarter--to be the collective instrument by which one does for people what they cannot alone do for themselves. And even Dubya's having humped up the official figure for U.S. Tsunami aid to $350 milllion, after charges of stingyness left an omelette on his face, still reflects a horrendously embarrassing chintzyness and meanness of spirit on the part of the world's only hyperpower.

There's been a few references, regarding US "stinginess", to the propensity of the poorer US states to donate more per capita to charity. It's often made alongside the observation that the red states are apparently more generous than the blue. It's getting rather late, but a swift glance down the statistics here suggests that the blue states express their "generosity" through the tax system, being frequent net benefactors to the total tax take. We might think we are looking at differences in attitudes, with Republicans prefering virtuous private donations to meddlesome big government; except that those same Republican states are more often net beneficiaries of state handouts. No distaste for public funds here. This opens the intriguing possibility that poorer, Republican-dominated states are having to rely on private donations in the absence of effective public provision: not "generosity", as such, but the nineteenth century necessity of self-help reasserting itself.

Alas, it is now late - horribly late - and I've not quite got the time to follow this up properly. If anybody can fill in the gaps, I'd be glad to hear.