RE: Didn't need no welfare state (Was: Re: news...)

From: Billy Brown (
Date: Thu Apr 27 2000 - 09:46:33 MDT

Emlyn (pentacle) wrote:
> I'm quite suspect of private charity being able to make these fine grained
> judgement calls. I could accept that they might be able to only hand
> charity to those in need; I am less convinced that all of (or even a good
> proportion of) those in need will necessarily receive handouts.
> Interestingly, from close observation of true slackers (not fun, I assure
> you), I would even doubt the ability of private charities to seperate the
> needy and the slackers. There are a good proportion of professional
> charity cases out there, and they get a damned lot of non-govt handouts,
> be assured!
> I wonder whether the truly needy could appear as needy as the professional
> slackers have learned to?

Let's remember who the 'truly needy' are here. My earlier argument was that
those who are physically or mentally incapable of work are the only ones who
should receive long-term assistance, and that there is an additional
population of 'down-on-my-luck' cases who could use a helping hand for a
short period of time. These people are all relatively easy to distinguish
form a half-clever freeloader.

The short-term assistance cases are a self-limiting issue - if Fred the
moocher shows up with a sob story, collects assistance for a few weeks, and
shows no interest in ever doing anything about becoming self-sufficient, you
can cut him off. He can stretch things out by making the rounds of different
charities, but eventually word will get around that he's just freeloading.
Unless he is a really talented con man, or he does a lot of traveling, he's
going to end up being forced out of the charity system. The incapacity cases
present a similar situation. Fred can pretend to be one for awhile, but it
is very difficult to fool people about such things for long periods of time.

That leads me to expect that a private charity system with sufficient
funding would tend to help everyone who actually needs it, plus a small
additional population of moochers. The charities themselves will act to keep
the moocher population in check, but the psychology of charity workers leads
me to believe that they are unlikely to ever become so stringent that they
exclude the genuinely needy.

There is also another beneficial effect operating here, which is that the
population of incapacitated individuals is likely to shrink over time as
medical technology improves. At the same time, improvements in diagnostic
technology make it more and more difficult for cheaters to fake an illness.
We should therefore expect that over time the amount of money the charities
have will grow, while the population they need to help actually shrinks.

The only real question I see is whether we have reached the point where
private contributions to charity would be sufficient to support such a
system. I think the answer is yes, but I don't have any way to prove it.
OTOH, if you think that is a problem you can always add in indirect
government assistance (tax breaks, regulatory exemptions, etc).

Billy Brown

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