Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The costs of misdirection

Frances Russell points out the key difference between efforts to deal with inequality and those more narrowly targeted toward poverty alone:
As Linda McQuaig points out in her latest book, The Trouble With Billionaires: "For many on the right and even a surprising number on the left, inequality has become a non-issue, even as it's grown by leaps and bounds... Today, many influential progressives insist that poverty, not inequality, should be the focus... how well the rich are faring is irrelevant."

Exchanging the word inequality for the word poverty makes life easier for governments and the wealthy. Poverty can be addressed by the noblesse oblige of private charity. Inequality can only be addressed by genuine social and economic change.
And I'd think it's worth asking some questions about our current structure of noblesse oblige - even if I'm not sure whether it's even possible to answer them in detail.

After all, there doesn't seem to be much room for doubt that plenty of resources - in both money collected and individual time - get put into charitable fund-raisers through businesses and/or employers. But I'd be curious to see if the time and money put into those efforts can be compared to both the amounts spent on corporate lobbying efforts to reduce the size of government, and the reductions in corporate taxes which have resulted (both of which of course increase the burden on charities while detracting from their intended goals).

And if the work of volunteers and donors is being substantially undercut by the latter forces, then that might be dead giveaway that our current system operates to channel individual philanthropy for the ultimate benefit of those who already have the most - signalling that those taking a broader view of the interests of people in need will be better served spending their time working to change the system.

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