I consider that organised support for the poor, the hungry or the sick should not be the responsibility of individuals, but rather that of public authorities, duly enpowered to do so and duly funded to do so.
I consider that the only way to take care in a durable, fair and consistent way of such tasks is if the State, or at least regional authorities, do it. Thus, I consider that I have no moral duty to go and participate myself personally to such soliarity.
Let me explain why.
Who decides what we care about?
Help needs to be provided in ways that address the most pressing problems, as identified by as objective a process as possible or, barring that, with as much collective (i.e. democratic) legitimacy as possible. Charity will always focus on the issues that the people which provide it care about, and may completely ignore other issues. This is even more true today with charities increasingly run by billionaires who call all the shots and decide to allocate funds according to criteria which they solely determine. Solidarity should not be subject to the whims of a few persons or private organisations. It should focus on the issues deemed most important by the public as a whole, not by self-appointed volunteers.
Congratulating Bill Gates and Warren Buffett because they are putting upwards of $60 bn in the Gates Foundation, as the press has been doing in recent motnhs with abandon, is incredibly shortsighted.
Such massive amounts on any given topic will inevitably lead to reductions in public funding of the same, and transfer decision making on major public policy issues to people whom we may admire but who represent no one but themselves. Worse, once public money is gone, it is unlikely to come back, and policy will end up being decided by entities with no requirement to continue to provide their services, no accountability beyond what they are willing to give, and no coherence with other public policy objectives.
nd whey they are on their own, you can be sure that they will start asking for public money to fulfill a "vital" role. Taxpayers will end up footing the bill but with much less effective oversight. Meanwhile, spending will have been funneled toward the topic of the billionaire's choosing.
Who is eligible for help?
Letting the private sector in charge of major planks of our social policy or of our healthcare policy brings about the risk that it will provide a selective service, i.e. will choose who is "worthy" of help, and what conditions they must fulfill to benefit from such help.
Imagine food banks that (explicitly or not, discreetly or not) refuse to give anything to unmarried women; imagine shelters that do not have room for coloured people; imagine health care centers that ask you to join a prayer group before you're treated. Or worse. The temptations of those that help to indulge in social engineering or proselyting are just too strogn to be ignored.
It's private help. Why wouldn't they put conditions to providing it? After all, they are under no obligation to provide that help to anyone. It's their money, and they should be free to choose how it's spend (or, in this case, on whom).
And charity moguls pride themselves on their effectiveness. Will they let ungrateful losers reduce the "efficiency" of their charity? No, they will reform their ways or they will not be helped. It's a good deal for them, after all.
Maybe it can be regulated and the most egregious exclusions made illegal, but will government ever be able to enforce it? And why use public money on enforcement that could be better spent on actually providing the same service in a fair and consistent way?
When, where and how is help provided?
Will help be provided where and when it is most needed? Can volunteers know how to focus their efforts in the most relevant way, without forgetting anyone that needs it? Will there be enough of them, in the right place, and with the right support? What happens if they stop for any reason (lack of availability, loss of motivation, or any other personal obstacle)?
Solidarity should not be subject to the whims, prejudices and availability of individuals, however well intentioned and generous. This is not to say that charity should not happen, of course, but that the basic level of solidarity that a society wishes to see for its weaker or unlucky members should be provided to all that need it, all the time, and everywhere, in an organised, consistent and fair way, and not subject to the random decisions of individuals. That help is provided in addition is great, it is always useful, but it should not be needed.
When I see the glorification of large private donors, who are bringing their business acumen and hardheadedness to the charity world, I worry that we are on in incredibly slippery slope, because it further decredibilises government, by suggesting that such tasks are better done by the private sector, and this therefore threatens the long term ability of democratically elected (and therefore legitimate) public authorities to determine what the common good should be, what the goals of public policy, and what tools should be used to that effect. In effect, authority and responsibility seeps from our representatives to the rich.
Do not believe that those that provide such charitable services will not eventually make demands on the body politic. They will get power, but will not provide accountability. After all, they are giving out money, why on earth would anyone have the right to say anything about how they choose to spend it?
Large scale charity is feudalism, pure and simple. It's a primitive form of government, based on the cult of the individual, the lack of formal rules, and the might-is-right mindset.
I'd rather have my government do it.
I'd rather pay more taxes so that decent public policies can be put in place.
I will always congratulate individuals that help others privately, on a local basis, or work for causes they believe in, but I will always be hostile to such generosity being counted on a macro level and claims about the solidarity of a society being determined by the accumulation of private generosity. The privatisation of solidarity, on a large scale, is a sign of failure, not of success.
I don't do charity. I pay taxes.