Charity, Free Markets and Social Change

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Charity’s do incredibly admirable work, however they cannot cope with the burden of social ills by themselves. Governments should help organise efforts to solve social problems by allocating adequate resources to maintaining a compassionate and comprehensive level of social health.

The work charities do – social work – is ultimatley about improving society: the individual and collective lives of the community and world we live in. Not only is this the concern of the government in an enabling capacity, but it is also necessary as the problems facing society are nationwide.

Charity work helps treat the symptoms and alleviate the causes of an unequal, unjust society; however, most are forced to deal with the symptoms, without addressing the root causes of society’s ills. Charities are left with the dilemma whether to alleviate present suffering or to affect long-term change.

Charities face an impossible challenge: they attempt to carry the burden of overwhelming social problems, with only minimal resources at their disposal. The oppressed, disadvantaged and most vulnerable parts of society are woefully underfunded and neglected. Terminal illness, homelessness, drug addiction, mental health provision, animal welfare – the list goes on. These issues need national level, structured state organisation.

Charities attempt to fill the gap left by the failure of the free market to adequately cater for the public good. Charities attempt to fill the void of the negative externalities. gap left by shirking of social responsibility that deregulation causes.It attempts fills the void that  merely the inadequate, leftover option of a society that fails to recognise that regulation is necessary in certain areas of public policy. Laissez-faire, neoliberal economics has painted no regulation as the optimal, ideal mode of economy.  Those who worship the almighty altar of unrestricted free market capitalism fail to concede that whilst capitalism has its strengths, it also has its weaknesses. As a society, we must accept that the freemarket cannot solve certain problems.

Our economic system places huge emphasis on individual wealth creation which is exactly the opposite of what society needs. Any system that creates more incentive on individual wealth over collective social wealth is one that will only create vast inequality and leave those noble people attempting to right social injustice with an immense uphill struggle. Excessive consumerism is a scourge that reinforces selfish tendencies and makes it much more difficult for people to care about each other. This is where regulation plays its fundamental role: reconciling the soulless nature of capitalism with its capacity for wealth generation.

Absence of regulation, in certain key areas of public life, is ultimately neglect. Mental health and suicide, homeless people dying, for drug users that cannot find help due to fear of being ostrasized by society – these are the victims of our flawed approach to the most frail, people-focused areas of the economy. A mixed economy is the best civic as it harnesses the power of the wealth-generating aspect of capitalism, whilst guarding against failures in the market.

Relying on tidbits of help from generous few is not going to raise enough funds to sort out large social problems such as hunger, homelessless, lac of education and drug addiction. We cannot expect to solve huge social problems by relying on the noble few, battling for an audience, battling for donations, battling to effect change. What is truly needed is an organised, well-financed, state-level orchestrated action – problems so large as homelessness, animal overpopulation, animal welfare, slavery, etc, need more resources and more political mobilisation. By raising taxes on the wealthiest 1% and corporations would

Take pet overpopulation as an example. Charities struggle to care for the never-ending number of neglected, unwanted animals whilst irresponsibility pet “ownership” and lack of sufficient neutering schemes (some animal welfare charities do offer discounted neutering schemes) large-scale state-subsidized neuter schemes mean the pet population continually grows so that the problem never goes away – it is just an endless battle. The only way to truly solve the problem is for nationwide neuter schemes, public education and more stringent requirements on pet stewardship.

Without organised, well-financed action, the problem will never be solved and the situation is akin to a sinking ship with a hole at the bottom and rather than fixing the leak we just frantically scoop water over the side of the ship.  In a free market system – where there is little incentive for altruism -we end up relying solely upon the generosity of the public which is no way to sort out social ills that are so large they need organised, directed, well-researched, full-scale government action.

There is no need for charity in an equal and just society. The very existence of charities is proof of just how mismanaged our priorities are. Charities are generally left with the dilemma of alleviating the present suffering or treating the root causes. Unfortunately, with such limited resources they face the impossible choice between treating the symptoms whilst the root social disease remains intact or fight for long-term change whilst the current victims are left to suffer.

Further Reading: In A Just Society There Is No Need For Charity

2 thoughts on “Charity, Free Markets and Social Change

  1. This is an amazing article. I wish the world would read it and take it to heart, but then, we both know that won’t happen unless they are paid to do so. I wish you well in your efforts on this cause and the many others that you believe so strongly in. We need more individuals like you in the world. Hope you don’t mind… I’ll be hanging around your site a while… There’s a lot of information to absorb…
    Have a great Saturday evening…
    Michael

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  2. A thought provoking article, which I seemed to have missed until now. Indeed the need for charity has increased on a massive scale and charities seem increasingly desperate to glean donations, mainly from people who are themselves struggling more and more to make ends meet. Most certainly the hallmark of an increasingly unjust society.

    You make a good point concerning pet stewardship/ “ownership”, I wholeheartedly agree that there should be some sort of control on pet “ownership”. Anyone can walk into a pet shop and buy an animal no questions asked. Since the present austerity measures our local rabbit rescue has been overwhelmed with unwanted rabbits abandoned by people who cannot afford to care for them or simply don’t know how to do so.

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