Polly on charity

When the Wall came down, a most chilling revelation about communist states was their lack of any civil society – no charities, no buffer zone, no voluntary spirit, all natural generosity deliberately atrophied.

Yup, that’s what totalitarianism means.

But as all charity leaders say, they are no substitute for state funding, as the right imagines.

We’d rather have a bit more civil society please….

25 thoughts on “Polly on charity”

  1. So, the lack of any charitable or civic spirit was a “chilling revelation” – her words. And yet “chilling” is fine, – again her word – because it means state funding.

    Polly writing about the old Soviet block: is it evil defending stupidity or the fucking stupid defending evil? I can’t make up my mind.

  2. I’m not sure of this, my experience of the other side of the Curtain was a limited period in the GDR & Poland, but I understand from people who lived through it it wasn’t like this. It’s was by seeing for each other, helping each other they got through it. Despite the State actively discouraging those activities. The work done by the church in Poland for instance.

  3. I’m with BiS. I have a very limited experience with Poland before the wall came down (I was in Warsaw as it was being pulled down) but from what I saw, people worked together to help each other. It might have been seen as corruption by those who viewed it from outside, but to those inside it was people helping each other. Inside a totalitarian state, libertarianism was thriving in a quiet way.

  4. It occurs: Maybe the Tuscan typist can only see “charity” in sense of 4-colour letterheads, prime office space & six figure CEOs. “Civil society” as wimmin’s workshops. Organised volunteers.

  5. Yes, Polly probably means organised charity.

    For her, “people helping each other” isn’t charity, it’s subversion.

  6. @SBML
    That’s how “mafias”, as opposed to ordinary criminal gangs, start. Self help organisations acting outside the law. Why they’re so hard to suppress. Because they get loyalty from within the communities they benefit.

  7. If all charity leaders say they are no substitute for state funding and all charities took no state funding, their position would be coherent.

    At the same time, we would not be paying tax in order to be nagged and inveigled by these people.

  8. The worst thing to happen to charities in the last 50 years is the government funding of fakecharities started in the Blair years. It tarnishes real charities (& occasionally even means government funded tin can wavers in the hogh street are competing with real charities).

    In the 19th C, for a short while, the RNLI got state funding but they pulled themselves out of it and went back to being a, successful and respected, charity.

  9. Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain is very good on the crushing of civil society. They even closed down the Boy Scouts.
    No surprise it didn’t go down well with the captives. So some push back in terms of helping each other out.

  10. David Thompson: Correction to the above. People who earn more than Polly does have to justify their earnings

    No correction was really necessary and perhaps you were overlooking the fact that you do not have to be of the people to be a Tribune Of The People?

    Tribunes need and deserve these extra resources to illuminate our path to progress and show us the way.

  11. I particular liked her concern that Unpopular causes struggle.

    The implicit assumption being that the state should fund Charities that the electors don’t particularly want to support. No elitism there!!!

  12. “Charity is a fine thing, the backbone of a good society. But…”

    The “but” that says “Actually, I really want to destroy charities, charity, and let the state take over everything…except le case Toscane”

  13. “Religion draws most cash – and you wonder why that’s a charitable cause at all”

    No Polly, YOU wonder! You wonder and you nash your teeth because religions manifest belief systems, moral values, that are not wholly derived from the State. You cannot accept that, it must be destroyed.

    “All within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”

  14. “a most chilling revelation”: you really have to be heroically stupid and ignorant to find that a revelation.

  15. Who claims that the existence of charities justifies wealth inequality? Seriously?

    People give less to charity because they give to the welfare state through taxes? Yes. That’s certainly my position. I’m taxed at some ridiculous rate on (nearly) everything I earn and on most of what I spend to provide a somewhat-above-subsistance living to a bunch of people who are taking the piss (amongst, I have to admit, even in full rant mode, other things I do value) – including her very Pollyness. Yes. I give less to charity as a result (and, frankly, we give the majority of what we do to charity straight from the business because of aforesaid ridiculous rates.)

    [quote]Tomorrow is the Guardian and Observer’s annual telethon, when I and colleagues man the phones (OK, woman them too) hoping for your donations to four brilliant charities bringing affordable technology to Africa[/quote]

    I’ll be working so a VOIP DDoS attack is certainly out of the question, even if it wouldn’t be illegal.

  16. Not suprising a church that preaches charity, help for those in need and looking out for your neighbour will be quietly doing charity or showing others how to do charity in a state dominated country. Many things are unofficial even here – the man who checks on his elderly neighbour in cold weather, the woman who picks up some extra shopping for the old man down the street, the child who cleans snow on paths to help people get around. Plenty of non state help given daily all over the world. And yes, some charities take on state contracts to provide services better than the state. Hospice anyone?

  17. Hah. That’s what I get for ranting on ARRSE and here at the sometime. Markup language cross-over faults.

  18. But not everyone wants to suckle the State’s teat. At the time of year when we celebrate a miracle lets join in those celebrations:

    The recent redevelopment is a triumph for which Mr Thurley and his counterpart at the trust, Simon Jenkins (formerly of this newspaper), deserve praise. It also contains lessons. The most obvious is that, as a result of its functioning democracy, zealous bureaucracy and timorous or lethargic governments, Britain has a slapdash approach to heritage. The country is also fairly useless at building things. Referring to another case of this, Mr Jenkins refers to the [Stonehenge] visitor centre as the “third London airport of archaeology”. Yet progress can be accelerated when the state is absent—Mr Thurley raised the £27m largely from private sources, after the current coalition government abandoned the project. Encouraged by this, English Heritage plans to sever its ties to the state.

    From this week’s Economist (Bagehot) (my emphasis).

    I just hope that also means not accepting any more money, as with the RNLI above.

  19. “Surveys always show the poorest 20% give considerably more of their incomes – 3.2% – while the richest 20% donate a meagre 0.9%.”

    Yes, let’s use percentages instead of absolute amounts, it looks better, page 8 of the CAF PDF linked to in the article shows how a considerable sum of money can be made to look minuscule against a tiny amount.

    Same trick used when comparing US Foreign Aid against other countries. per GDP makes it look tiny.

    Not used for military spending though.

  20. I’m told the RNLI now has so much more money than it knows what to do with, it’s getting embarrassing.

    They’re now building their own lifeboat construction yard just to do something with all their excess cash.

  21. If the RNLI took their excess wonga, baled it up and dropped it off a lifeboat in the middle of the North Sea, it would still be less actively harmful than giving it to the sort of ‘charities’ Toynbee supports.

  22. Re: BiS

    During the Kobe Earthquake in the ’90s, the largest organization crime enterprise in Japan (Yamaguchi Gumi), which is headquartered in Osaka (and prominent in the Kansai region) managed to rent most of the available civilian helicopters and delivered relief supplies well ahead of the government agency.

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