Many of us, myself included, do not donate to charities as much as they should. In the day-to-day battle to get through life, earn a living, pay taxes, fund holidays and buy a new computer, charitable causes can often be overlooked. An argument given by perspectives that oppose high rates of tax is that the funds colourlessly taken by the taxman in the UK end up in Whitehall and local government to be squandered by inefficient and lazy officials. If this rate were lower not only would it take away the disproportionate power wielded by civil servants and politicians but the bonus we are told will happen is we will suddenly become philanthropists. Bill Gates is often toted as the role model example. The Microsoft millionaire will solve Africa’s problems with his money and the value of entrepreneurs being allowed to get on with business away from the dead hand of the state and its ridiculous regulations will finally be proved.
Despite its growth throughout New Labour’s troubled time in power, the state is in disrepute, to the extent that this friendly Economist-style argument to strip it back can tempt those such as myself who love the ideal of the Welfare State. For welfare is in disrepute. In the UK, the NHS, the pensions systems, our schools and the welfare system in general are facing spiralling problems that our politicians shirk from confronting. Bullish critics of the system point to the even more depressing decline of the French and German economies who didn’t go through the seemingly brutal slash and burn dismantling by Thatcher of the unions and her basic call to put business first. It can seem despite our prosperity that we may well be entering the end of a golden age which provided health provision free at the point of care for everyone and was meant to educate all,
To take one key example, the way modern healthcare has progressed also means it has become astronomically expensive. The NHS has serious difficulties providing a free service of the quality we demand and the only way we can supplement it for certain minority problems is by charitable donation. The new doctors’ contract is the second time a Labour government have stuffed their mouths with gold in order to keep this vital heart of the country’s health service on-side. It has succeeded in keeping the NHS plugging on, but, as many of us realise, the £1.2 billion deficit must be related to nearly doubling the salary of the highest paid members of the workforce as well as the cost of our astounding technological advances. The demands on the state to control the spiralling costs of this organisation are shirked by our leaders who realise the political suicide it is to try to bring this spending to heel but who will also refuse to put up taxes.
Come the time, come the individual and it seems it has to be our responsibility to begin taking charities seriously just because the terror our leaders face on the deadly tight-rope, they walk between providing high-quality services and keeping the economy ticking over, looks like it might lead to a catastrophic fall radically changing the basic services we hold dear. The Economist-style argument above has too much faith in private companies, for as we know from bitter experience the profit motive when treated as a religion can often sabotage the basic humanity of many and seems to lead to a fetishization of money, where need is ignored and commodities are endlessly desired. Yet sadly due to the way that governments function, characterised by a refusal to take hard decisions that may displease the multi-faceted group that elects them, yet finally annoying everyone, means that we better have faith in philanthropy because the state is in trouble.
Thank you to Angela Francesco for fearlessly raising the topic of charity and Huntington’s Disease on Frank Fisher’s crazy blog. Huntington’s is an example of a disease for which drug companies are unwilling to fund research in to a potential cure because of its rarity and therefore profitability. Donations to her charity jump to raise money for the disease can be made by contacting her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her blog documenting her mother’s mental decline and her attempts to deal with the disease can be found here http://survivinghuntingtons.blogspot.com/.