Funny money

There was a very listenable recent Radio 4 comedy programme ‘Simon Evans goes to Market on -Philanthropy’ where one of the contributors, Tim Harford, broadcast the damning quote by the future President Roosevelt on Rockefeller’s desire to create a charitable foundation.

“No amount of charity in spending such fortunes can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them.”

It is discouraging that nothing has changed since 1910.

But even more remarkable was hearing Merryn Someset-Webb, Editor of ‘Money Week’, say in the programme that she never ticks the box to reclaim the tax when giving charitable contributions and this on the grounds that we elect a government to prioritise spending. By ticking the box you are reducing the amount of money available for that government decided spending.

So even though she edits ‘Money Week’, mentally, she is still on the gold standard! Money is limited and so she wouldn’t want to intentionally limit government priorities. Surely she knows what Quantitative Easing has done for investments and surely she knows where Quantitative Easing comes from?

As a result her contribution was funny in more ways than one…


  1. Neil -

    My wife was involved in a discussion with her work colleagues earlier this week about school funding. She was met with disbelief when she mentioned that the government could spend as much as it wanted on education regardless of what taxes were collected (said one, “they can’t just create money!”).

    Perhaps her colleagues were finding it hard to believe that the government is already spending as much as it wants on education (which is to say, too little), but I don’t think the terminology used by almost every media outlet around tax is helpful. Phrases such as “taxpayers’ money” and “state borrowing” reinforce the notion that we directly fund services the government provides and if they want to spend more than was paid last year in tax then it’s necessary to borrow money in the form of a loan at high rates of interest, with future generations suffering further austerity to repay it.

    Regardless, it appears very few know how the system works and therefore automatically share the same gold standard thinking as Ms Someset-Webb simply because it’s what they observe in their own financial affairs and they have never heard a competing argument.

    I tend to think people would be more socially-minded (and less Conservative) if their ideas that they were directly subsidising those who “can’t be bothered” were challenged, but this goes against the individualistic mindset that has been fostered for the last 40 years. The Labour party came close with its last manifesto but stopped short of admitting how the economy actually functions. I wonder what would happen if someone let the cat out of the bag?

  2. Peter May -

    Agreed entirely – and as you say it’s difficult to get the reality accross, when people who should know better apparently don’t.
    If we still think we still need to pay for things then we have to keep pointing out that the services we need are paid for by providing them!

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