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Jerome's post is positively brilliant.

Me, I give to charity, but that's because I am inconsistent in my thinking.  I see it as the two highest attributes of government to: (A) monopolise force in order to protect the governed and their freedom; and (B) provide a safety net (re. food, housing, health, education).

Most of the comments on dKOS miss the point. Whether government does a good job or not is crucial but irrelevant. Or then should we argue that because the US military is out of its depth in Iraq, it should be replaced by private armies?  

That was for the philosophical part. Now a pet peeve.

Of all charities, nothing grates on me more than cancer research.  That's gangsterism pure and simple.

Cancer research in the US costs citizens $5 billion a year. That's 2 weeks in Iraq. Charity in a drop in the bucket. Except for the big bosses who run those organizations, who couldn't afford their yachts without it.

If people want to raise half an hour of cancer research (in Iraq war units) with private donations, they're conceding the government's proposition that that extra half hour fought in Iraq is worth more than the extra hope they can buy by contributing to a cancer charity. If so, I just yawn and move on.  If not, then I'd advise people to stop the charity crap and convince their government to add an extra half hour to the pot.

Not to mention that it's not really charity, since people hope to be the beneficiaries, and it's gullibility exploitation on a grand scale, since it's premised on the naive hope that medical progress is slow because of a lack of funding and not because we, humans, are just not that smart.

Finally there's the unctuous self-satisfaction of the good person like me who feels so good giving money to charity. I understand this is not germane to Jerome's point, but I believe that, for most people, giving to charity provides them with the highest ratio of self-satisfaction to cost. What's neat about paying taxes is that we all hate it! We don't feel better human beings for it. That's what I hate about charity.

by Bernard Chazelle (Bernard Chazelle) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 05:06:37 PM EST
Happy to see you posting here :).

Your description of government's role is very close to mine, I'd just add (C) do what the private sector does obviously badly in our current society framework (like most infrastructure, energy, ..., long term stuff, where competition does not work).

Given your list of publication, I hope you'll write a diary about one of those topic here!

by Laurent GUERBY on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 05:34:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.

Agreed on (C).

Unfortunately, I have no special expertise to offer about these topics. I am no economist/sociologist even if sometimes I like to pretend otherwise.

by Bernard Chazelle (Bernard Chazelle) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 09:11:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was talking about the geek topics (computer science and related math) where you're obviously an expert :).
by Laurent GUERBY on Sat Nov 25th, 2006 at 05:17:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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