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Why charity cannot replace the state

Written By: - Date published: 10:15 am, February 2nd, 2013 - 53 comments
Categories: public services - Tags: ,

One of the mantras of the current government is the importance of charity in society. The state is not necessarily the best deliverer of social services, they’ll tell you. Which is why it’s important to get the private sector involved.

The assumption is that the private sector and NGO’s will deliver services more efficiently and cheaply. What they never mention is the fact that charity can disappear as fast as it came.

That’s what’s just happened with Owen Glen’s promise of $80m to fight child abuse. Money that the Herald reports is now tied up in some kind of trust fund dispute.

Glenn’s offer was incredibly generous, as have been his other acts of philanthropy, and I certainly hope the money comes through, but in many ways this situation is indicative of the reason charity cannot replace the state – because it can’t be relied upon. If, for example, the money for these initiatives had been cut off once they were up and running rather than before they started the situation would likely be much worse. Indeed, I suspect the government would have had to step in.

Best it’s there from the start, I think.

53 comments on “Why charity cannot replace the state”

  1. Jackal 1

    On Saturday the 3 September 2011, Owen Glenn promised the Nation that he would make a donation of $100 million to the government if the National and Act parties won the next general election. As far as I’m aware, that $100 million “donation” has not been forthcoming.

    Owen Glenn is a conman… Nothing more.

    • CV - Real Labour 1.1

      Owen Glenn has not donated $100M to the National Government. That seems like a good thing. Glenn is not a perfect individual, but he’s been doing a lot of good with his wealth. The left shouldn’t fall into its usual tall poppy syndrome trap.

      • NoseViper (The Nose knows) 1.1.1

        A charity offer that is tied to a party rather than the ‘government’ has fishhooks. But then if someone rich were to offer to donate so that Green policies could be carried out it would be hard to turn down. And if it was dependent on the Greens raising their % vote it would certainly act as a vitalising spur, on top of their already vital approach and indicate support and agreement from a considerable percentage of thinking voters, always a minority I think!

        But a modern democracy intent on maintaining standards of living and support for people who require it, can’t turn its back on providing what is required by the polity and leave it to grace and favour of those with money, or just pay churches and NGOs funds to make the problems go away. It’s too easy to end up with the cold charity that was the norm in the 1800s with the righteous with the goods to distribute. Think of Peter Sellers and his take on this, as a sick peasant with the lady of the estate visiting him with a kindly gift of potato peelings.

      • Jackal 1.1.2

        CV – UnReal Labour

        Owen Glenn has not donated $100M to the National Government. That seems like a good thing.

        Not only did Owen Glenn illegally try to bride the public to vote for the National and Act parties, he didn’t even follow through on the $100 million that he said he wanted to go towards helping educate New Zealand children… So not really a good thing any way you look at it.

        The left shouldn’t fall into its usual tall poppy syndrome trap.

        It’s not that I dislike Owen Glenn for his wealth CV, it’s that I dislike him making promises he does not keep. It’s not like these are promises to take your kids to the movies or something, these are important things and Glenn is ultimately wasting a lot of other people’s time and money.

        • CV - Real Labour 1.1.2.1

          Moralise over Glenn all you like, maybe he just got smarter and decided that donating money to the Key Government was a bad move.

          • fatty 1.1.2.1.1

            Perhaps his withholding of the promised donation was partly due to this – when the economy slows and more charity is needed, those who can give to charity are less inclined to do so because their money is less secure.
            That maybe part of it…but Jackal is probably right and Owen Glen is a conman. Glen donated millions to the Business School at the University of Auckland.
            As far as I’m concerned, that’s a dickish thing to do. Last thing NZ needs is more dickheads learning how to force more kids into poverty.

            • CV - Real Labour 1.1.2.1.1.1

              I’m not a fan of our Economics, Finance and Business schools, but when we start criticising people for donating to universities we’re pretty much at the end of the road.

              Glenn’s perspective is of someone who made a lot of money during a massive expansion of energy use and money printing. It’s doubtful that he gets the new environment or that parts of his recipe for success in the old environment no longer applies.

              Is he a business shark who likes to see his own name in print, sure. Is he a “conman” like Bernie Maddoff or the Hanover Finance guys? I’d say certainly not.

              • fatty

                I’m not a fan of our Economics, Finance and Business schools, but when we start criticising people for donating to universities we’re pretty much at the end of the road.

                True, just criticising people for donating to universities would be stupid…I never did that.
                Criticising economic rationalism, its supporters, and the institutions that ensure its hegemony is maintained is the start of the road…that is what I did.

                Glen would have done more for NZ if he had of flushed that money down the shitter.

        • TheContrarian 1.1.2.2

          “he didn’t even follow through on the $100 million that he said he wanted to go towards helping educate New Zealand children”

          You’re right – it was only 80 million.

          http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/7293444/Owen-Glenn-gives-80m-to-fight-child-abuse

          • fenderviper 1.1.2.2.1

            Have n’t you heard?

            The family trust that the money is in seemingly don’t share the charitable spirit of Owen, there’s a dispute taking place over releasing the coin.

      • geoff 1.1.3

        But what did he do to get that wealth?

        • CV - Real Labour 1.1.3.1

          He introduced new business models in logistics which helped enable the globalisation of trade and manufacturing.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.4

        The left shouldn’t fall into its usual tall poppy syndrome trap.

        I get pissed off with this BS. There are a lot of people out there that are just as good if not better than the rich and yet they’re on the bones of their arse simply because they don’t have access to the resources they need to show it. That’s what happens when you have limited resources and they’re all in the hands of a few people who then give access to them only if they themselves become richer.

        Such a system produces three effects:
        1.) Society becomes dependent upon those few
        2.) Advancement of the society is slowed and, eventually, halted
        3.) Society must eventually collapse as poverty increases until it is unsustainable

        This is what we are seeing today.

      • AmaKiwi 1.1.5

        Labour doesn’t do tall poppy. Oh, is that Cunliffe’s head I see on the ground?

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    The better example is of the Rape Crisis centres that are either operating without enough money or are closing down due to not having any. Yes, a couple of them have been saved by donations but next year they will be in exactly the same shape as they were and there may not be any donations coming especially if the financial economy keeps collapsing the way it is. The government could easily keep these centres going without any of this stress from lack of funding but instead they’re cutting funding to them.

    • rosy 2.1

      “Yes, a couple of them have been saved by donations”

      It’s mainly to do with the private sector allocating on the basis of which charities are most beneficial to be associated with – sort of why breast cancer charities get so much more funding than bowel cancer charities, for example.

      • Macro 2.1.1

        exactly! and blind dog puppies – not that these shouldn’t receive private funding – but private funding is skewed towards the attractive rather than by need.

      • AwakeWhileWalking 2.1.2

        +1

        Associating yourself with rape victims doesn’t seem to have mass appeal (but how would anyone know? I think the majority of people support these types of causes but feel uncomfortable for a number of reasons). Those who do associate themselves find a loyal following so I think in terms of impact this type of financial support goes much further than with traditional “feel good” fluffy causes.

        FYI there is much going on to prevent future funding issues with rape crisis. For details you can email everyoneneedstherighthelp@gmail.com and volunteer time. The troops are rallying and it’s a worthy cause : )

  3. Foreign Waka 3

    Charity has been practiced for a very log time (see link). http://www.historyextra.com/feature/charity-what-can-we-learn-history
    There seem to be the misguided belief that this is the solution whereas this is the ambulance of last resort at the bottom of the cliff. Unless the structural imbalance is not addressed the problems will just escalate. The notion that charity ought to compliment/replace social welfare will take us 2000 years back into the past. Whoever is driving this must count on the gullibility of the general population. I for one would like to see a fair taxing system that hat a measure of proportion to income and tax loopholes closed. As for people who donate, good on them for trying to sooth their conscience, tax free I may add. Too much money and the next tax step is coming up? Just make a donation….

    • Rogue Trooper 3.1

      in Victorian England the authorities persecuted the church for being Too charitable; let them suck on Woody’s

  4. Kevin Welsh 4

    He could always live in New Zealand, pay the appropriate taxes like the rest of us and probably wouldn’t have to make large donations.

  5. Tiresias 5

    “One of the mantras of the current government is the importance of charity in society.” – IrishBill

    It’s a mantra that becomes somewhat muted when one of the charities is “a scheme allowing people to sponsor children in Third World countries … being replicated for New Zealand children living below the poverty line.”

    Next stop, foundling hospitals, hospitals for the poor and needy, alms houses and ragged schools.

  6. Bill 6

    It would be useful to seperate private providers from NGO type providers.

    The former seeks profit – usually from having won a contract that pays by ‘results’. And it kind of just channels public money to private coffers and does not necessarily mean that less public money is spent and usually means services deteriorate .

    The latter often relies on voluntary labour, very small amounts of public monies and gets the government ‘off the hook’ vis a vis government’s social responsibilies.

    Both scenarios are wrong and both promote negative (but different) dynamics.

    As for rich philanthropists donating to this, that or the other cause, well, that’s okay until it comes to social services. That’d a very US ‘way of doing things’ and is a fast track to lock in ideas of deserving and undeserving.

    Poverty is about injustice; not charity. Many social services are also about justice, not charity. And unless resources (public monies) and meaningful power is put back into communities for communities to deal with community issues, government should never be allowed to shirk it’s responsibilities and throw people to the tender mercies of philanthropy, private profit seekers or registered charities.

    • JK 6.1

      Excellent comments, Bill.

      Some of our philanthropic trusts have already started down the slippery slope of wanting to “pick and choose” the deserving poor for their largesse aka the USA style.

      In addition, under the recent Charities legislation it has become easier for private providers to become so-called “charitable trusts” and pick up government funding for their services. This is happening in health services (eg private hospitals doing elective surgery or providing maternity services), starting to happen in education (eg charter schools), and no doubt will continue in other areas as entrepreneurs/business people see the opportunity for making money from providing these services

    • Foreign waka 6.2

      “The latter often relies on voluntary labour” – just wondering whether the renewed call for prisoners to work (of cause free of charge) is in conjunction with the reduction of government funds for basic infrastructure services. Naturally, no one want’s to be seen to donate to that cause.

  7. millsy 7

    IMO charites always pick and choose who gets help and who doesnt, and who ever is lucky enough to get the help, has to jump through hoop after hoop, and pretty much be dictated to how they live their lives.

    Look at Habitat for Humanity, they have a huge application procedure and the person on the other end have to help work on their house (too bad if youre sick or disabled, or your job stops you), and then go through this complicated lease arrangement where you lease it for 5 years, and if you are lucky to not get kicked out, you get the privilige of having a mortgage at market rates.

    I tell you right now, the state housing program, as well as the State Advances/Housing Corp mortgages, got more people into housing in between 1935 and 1994 than that idiot peanut farmer’s Habitat for Humanity ever will in 200 years.

    And dont get me started on uni scholarships.

  8. Yoza 8

    I’m reminded of the definition John Ralston Saul applies to charity: “Those who have get to decide what those who do not deserve.”

    Owen Glen’s offer seems counter intuitive. As I understand things, the massive offer to fight child abuse was conditional on a National/ACT coalition gaining power. This combination of political ideology is demonstrably abusive to children living in the lowest quintiles of the socio-economic order.

    Condemning children to environmental conditions which dramatically increase their exposure to infectious diseases, domestic turbulence, mental illness, substance abuse and any number of issues relating to the impoverishment of societies most vulnerable ( See the latest edition of Poverty Watch ; then offering to pay a minor percentage of his personal fortune to ameliorate some of the worst effects of the socially disastrous political philosophy he is co-sponsoring, seems counter-intuitive.

    If Owen Glen were truly worried about the welfare of New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens he would not support such an obviously vicious form of national economic management. Although, there would be no knighthood or media recognition in opposing the neo-liberal status quo.

  9. AwakeWhileWalking 9

    No one has commented on the attack on advocates work yet:

    http://blog.greens.org.nz/2012/11/17/charities-as-advocates-time-we-called-the-governments-bluff/

    Quote:

    “Community organisations already spend much of their time advocating. They shouldn’t be excluded from getting charitable status (and tax exemption) because of this. Organisations of long standing repute including the National Council of Women have been denied charitable status on the basis that advocacy is their primary purpose. Advocacy is not currently deemed a ‘charitable purpose’ under the Act, and therefore they are denied tax exemption for donations.”

    Advocate for some poor soul kicked by the system and they’ll try and strip your charitable status away. HOW CAN YOU NOT WRITE ABOUT THIS?

    It affects benefit rights advocates, mental health advocates, rape victims being supported by advocates… Advocates act for those who’s voice would otherwise go unheard, often at their own expense. Is this not the very definition of charity? A gift of time and speech rather than money is no less valid.

    • NoseViper (The Nose knows) 9.1

      Awake WW
      Very good point. And counter to the type of political system that the government appears to follow when dealing with non-poor people. They seem to follow the pluralistic way where different factions lobby and fight for government funding.

      Yet when the people in your corner are needy and you point out the government’s shortcomings in assisting them, probably in causing their problems, then off with their heads say the aristos (we hope the French haircuts are not repeated here but there seems a pathway in that direction).

  10. Craig Glen viper 10

    Im in the States at the moment the homeless on the streets is appalling, in LA alone they believe 7000 of the homeless are war Veterans, a large percentage seem to be mentally unwell. Welfare is defiantly preferable to desperate poverty.

    • Foreign Waka 10.1

      So nothing has changed in the last 10 years. I went there and had complete different expectations, what a shock it was that there are so many poor people. I traveled the east coast but was actually glad to board the plane and fly to Europe.

  11. One Tāne Huna 11

    “Why charity cannot replace the state.”

    Bleedin’ obvious innit? Charity is all that existed for almost 40,000 years. That’s why we invented the welfare state in the first place: charity was manifestly inadequate. Anyone who believes human nature has evolved in the last 100-odd years is delusional.

  12. karol 12

    WINZ refers people to places either partly or fully done by unpaid volunteers. Such volunteers do more than Owen Glenn – he gives (or doesn’t give) money that he doesn’t really need. Volunteers give their time and good will to help those in need, and consequently help to maintain our society.

  13. Foreign Waka 13

    Help please, if anyone can enlighten me on the charity NZ Family and Foster Care Federation Inc.? Registered under CC25139.

  14. Rogue Trooper 14

    Now, let me tell you about HealthCareNZ…and the Whatever IT Takes model…

  15. higherstandard 15

    you people are all fucking cunts – rot in hell

  16. xtasy 16

    Indeed, charity is not the answer, as a media release by Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) already stated on 29 Jan. 2013:

    http://aaap.org.nz/

    But that is where National want to take us, with their little mercenary in yellow camouflage (from the ACT Party).

    Indeed the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill is preparing us exactly for this, the outsourcing of welfare services, of work testing, of work preparation, of special other service deliveries. That will go hand in hand with increased use of NGOs as charities and whatever.

    Their ideal is to create a system more akin to what they have in the US. The motto is a perverted interpretation of JFK’s words: “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your contry”.

    And the draconian new regime will include a draconian work capacity assessment regime, that is based on what the Department for Work and Pension uses in the UK, which led to 1,100 deaths in the time from January or February until Sept. 2011 alone, as people considered “fit” for work, either died while trying, or committed suicide. Those were seriously sick and disabled, whose doctors even considered them unfit to work.

    But the new regime that MSD and WINZ will use will not just rely on what your doctor and specialist says, they will also look at OTHER information, to see what you can do, rather than what you cannot do.

    So good on IB to remind us of the state’s role, but the problem will be, the state does want to bring in new rules, that will see to it, that the beneficiaries will have to look at it like: Work sets you Free! Toughen up, get a job and stop winging and malingering.

    Read Paula Bennett’s speech to medical experts again:

    http://www.beehive.govt.nz/speech/speech-medical-professionals

    And see what kind of stuff is planned to “replace” what “the state” in NZ used to do and abide by:

    http://www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/@disabled/documents/digitalasset/dg_177366.pdf

    http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wca-handbook.pdf

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/defining_medical_assessmentexami

    • Ryan O'Shea 16.1

      gold right here “Sir Mansel says that health wise, after six months of unemployment each day off work is as detrimental as smoking 200 cigarettes.” oh so it’s not being too fucken poor to eat properly or shit housing and drugs and alcohol – it’s the idleness chaps, all sorted then!

  17. Right-wing policy requires individuals to make a choice with where they put their own charity. If people vote right and do not take part in charitable donating, ideologically this is one of the areas where the right-wing approach is very weak; it doesn’t require the state to cater to misfortune and requires individuals to be charitable on their own terms.

    This is one of the real rip-offs with New Zealanders voting for right-wing parties en-masse; its not as though they understand the political thought behind what they are voting for and follow their vote through with additional support of charities. They take their tax break and run.

    Societies have to cater to unfortunate events and circumstances, because misfortune, being part of life (or at least some lives), cannot be avoided and when ignored the whole society eventually ends up suffering. This is where the left-wing ideology is more pragmatic and simply includes the addressing of misfortune in with the Government’s business.

    New Zealanders appear to be choosing to live in a dreamworld where all would be just dandy if everyone got out and worked hard and if someone is in a difficult situation it is their own bloody fault (subtext: and they should be flagellated for it until they ‘see the light’) This is a false belief and thus leads to failure in society as a whole. Not everyone can be hard-working, not everyone is born into the best circumstances, nor with the best faculties, some are and can still experience misfortune; and when a society as a whole forgets misfortune then the whole society becomes unfortunate.

    The proof is increasingly there for people to see.

  18. Descendant Of Sssmith 18

    We have a government and a population who votes for them who want to convert no fault state support for the most vulnerable to a moralising charity.

    I have no doubt that the attacks will also continue on no fault ACC and then no-fault matrimonial settlements.

    These people are bastards and what they do will overwhelmingly have the hardest impact on women and the unwell and disabled.

    The no-fault aspect of support is what clearly distinguishes welfare from charity. It’s not enough for them to just reduce welfare – turning it into charity via social obligations (and then having people take profit from it as well) is stomach churning – it’s a pity Labour are not part of the fight against it, that Maori Party have been sidelined by seeing the opportunity for picking up the contracts and are part of it directly but go Mana and The Greens who at least openly oppose it.

    It would be nice if Labour could even express something like these values in this The Year Of Policy.

    From 1977 yearbook

    The present system cannot be characterised according to any single principle, theory, or formula. As already stated, it has evolved from changing needs and experience in dealing with them. For example, it looks like a form of community insurance, but is not financed, funded, or administered on an insurance basis. It is financed from general taxation; but a person’s benefit bears no relation to his tax contribution. While basically income-tested and selective as to need within classes of benefit, it is also universally applied without regard to other income or means in three main cases (superannuation, family, and medical benefits) and in the lesser miners’ benefit. It transfers income from the more to the less affluent mainly on the basis of greatest help for those in greatest need. It reflects the traditional humanitarian, egalitarian, and pragmatic approach of New Zealanders and, most importantly, reflects an acceptance of community responsibility for social welfare.

    • Well said, Descendant of Sssmith,
      Moralising charity” is a lucid term for it and you illustrate the difference well by the other term you use “no fault state support”.

      It is stomach churning.

  19. Descendant Of Sssmith 19

    Anyone know how these groups are going in their local areas?

    http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/welfare-reform/list-of-providers.html

  20. Descendant Of Sssmith 20

    Factory workers explain the welfare state better than this current crop of Labour MP’s ever could.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8256615/Are-Kiwis-really-one-big-happy-family

    “For a long time, living in a state house and working in a factory was a badge of honour. If you did a hard day’s work you deserved to live in a good house and live a life of dignity,” said Salesa, whose father was a factory worker with Fisher and Paykel.

    “Being poor in New Zealand, the first thing you don’t get is dignity.”

    The denial that this inequality exists has been labelled the modern form of racism in New Zealand. Race relations wasn’t just about being kind to each other, it was about being fair to each other, said de Bres.

    “The holding up of a vision and belief of excellent race relations in New Zealand is a denial of the reality. The irony is it is so important in our national view of ourselves that any challenge leads to quite strong denial.”

  21. unicus 21

    Glenns sudden interest in the welfare of South Auckland children was always suspicious – it looked good on the knighthood CV – now he’s got it to hell with them .

    Charity comprimises the dignity and independence of low income people by exposing them to the whims of rich . and self serveing egomaniacs like Glen and Rosie Horton .

    • xtasy 21.1

      Moeny not there now, hey, wonder, wonder, he even layed some criticims on the government last night, hey, wonder, wonder, but nobody in NZ really registers, cares or gives a damn, as it is all about me, me and more me!

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