The public spirit of the poor will provide

I have long been struck how the lack of government care – really much reduced government spending in key areas – requires more charitable giving by the rest of us.

Although tax never pays for government expenditure, increased charitable giving has become the direct effect of government policy – in other words it has become a common endeavour which takes place outside the common democratic process and as a direct result of that process’s failure.

In this government ‘s terms because ‘there is no money’, you and I who, unlike our government don’t create it, have consciously to make ourselves poorer in order to donate it.

If you care, as the statistics suggest people in the UK tend to (chart below*, click to enlarge), then this charitable giving becomes much the same as an increase in taxation. The relatively impoverished wrestle with their conscience, whilst their own elected government has, it seems, no conscience to wrestle with.

So we get a double-hit. The poor are insufficiently supported by their own government and the slightly less poor are made poorer by feeling obliged to support those excluded from help by the government, by charitable giving.

Maybe there is a sense of pride and mental well-being in giving to charity. Certainly Rees Mogg and other Tories suggest they have pride in a country that is so public-spirited.

This is a travesty of public spirit. Public spirit needs to revolve around a properly organised public government that spends generously with sufficient progressive taxation to stop inflation getting out of hand.

Personally I feel shame in a government that seems to have no public spirit at all, and then – I wonder am I alone? – I have a distinct sense of outrage that our current government is so cruel and incompetent that I am being forced into charitable giving as a matter of duty. It is made even worse because the government demonstrates so regularly that it has itself no sense of duty at all.

We, their electorate, are treated as no more than a credulous peasantry: the government tells us there is no money in the certain knowledge that the slightly less poor will provide.


*For Myanmar, Buddhism and the belief that what people do in this life improves their chances of the next life being a better one is normally used to explain their very high donation levels. Yet, second placed Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country, so there must be other reasons.

It is also striking how few European nations there are in the chart. Is that, too, a result of religion? The European countries represented are Protestant in heritage – apart from Ireland, which historically has had many years of rule from a Protestant country.



  1. Jenny Howell -

    For me the outlier is Norway which I assume has a good welfare state. I was surprised, not by Indonesia being second from top, but that there weren’t other Muslim countries represented given that charitable giving is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. I go to Morocco fairly frequently, and you see people giving money to the poor everywhere you go. A lot of food sellers work on a ‘shifting price’ system as well (noticeable as a foreigner!) where the poor are charged much less. I guess this sort of thing doesn’t make it’s way into charts as it is informal giving, but is certainly something we could learn from!

  2. Peter May -

    Thanks – good points!

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