Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Hope or Charity

This story simply depresses me. Claire Melamed, an executive of the charity ActionAid (do even charities have to have a trendy name, missing letters, capitals or spaces?) speaks out against the Conservative proposal to use vouchers for distributing overseas educational aid. Her reason for speaking out is that she claims in order to benefit “everybody has to know everything about what’s going on in the market and everyone has to know the same amount about what’s going on in the market” and that the government of each country should be given the aid to spend on education.

I shall leave aside Ms Melamed’s lack of understanding of rather basic economics. as Alex Singleton's post really covers that. I am even willing to offer the benefit of the doubt and leave aside the suspicion that arrogant, dogmatic socialism is really underlying her objection. What really depresses me is that as so often a socialist justifies the title of my blog. This woman thinks she knows best. In fact, even worse, she thinks she knows best that the governments not only know best but will also do the best they know. She does not doubt her ability, and the ability of governments, so poorly demonstrated, to provide for the people she cares about better than they could care for themselves, given the same resources.

This issue shows why I am beginning to like Cameron. He is working out how people can be encouraged to help themselves. It also might connect with why I stopped giving money to Oxfam. Nothing specifically against Oxfam, but charity in large areas of the third world is not seeming to help. The very real concern crops up that charity, like state welfare in Western Europe, is causing dependency and discouraging freedom and independence. That might explain why political rights are so hard to establish in those countries. As a libertarian I remember that my countrymen fought and died for freedom last time it was threatened, thinking freedom worth the cost.

Freedom to choose how your children are educated might seem a small thing, but it is freedom. Freedom needs men and women of good will who have authority, power and resources to be sceptical, to doubt themselves and so allow people to take responsibility for themselves. Cameron is such a man; contrary to popular belief Thatcher was such a woman for most of her time in politics; Brown, it need hardly be said, is not.

May freedom grow, and may the charities that seek to limit it collect ever decreasing subscriptions.

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