Tuesday, October 25, 2005

*mutter mutter*

Short posts today and most likely a single update. Lousy property law assignment grade. Terribly miffed about it with no one except myself to blame. So yes, textbooks and cases.

BBCNews.com: Rich World 'failing' on quake aid

*In other news*

Just to be clear on where the money comes from. When a country donates money and aid to another country, the money comes from the taxpayers. These taxpayers are forced to pay their taxes on the pain of criminal sanction and the threat of being a bankrupt. Of course, there are many many good reasons one should pay taxes e.g. "taxes are the price one pays for a civilised society". Taxes support government and the provisions of services that the private market would not provide (though I'm begining to question whether the free-rider effect is such a huge detriment that shipping companies would not pay to build a lighthouse). Taxes can also be used to subsidise activities that are consumed at sub-societal optimal level e.g. primary and secondary school.

So while I am perfectly fine with the whole moral imperative point and the neighbour house on fire, you do not dicker on the terms of the loan of the firehose and water, nevertheless there are very real issues that charities sometimes dismiss all too readily. There's a couple of episodes in The West Wing that deal with intervention, whether militarily or materially, one on the Tequilla Crisis and another on intervention on genocide (apparantly the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide distinguishes between acts of genocide and genocide. Go figure. But latest case law suggests that even killing 10 people can constitute genocide).

On the Tequilla Crisis (Mexican stockmarket shed 30% of its value in a single day due to worried about its forex sustainability, the discussion was where to guarantee its loans), a point was given as to the hypothetical hardworking and overworked taxpayer seeing his tax revenue going overseas to a crisis that's the fault of someone else. And all the while, he's in a district where the schools and health services and welfare is heavily underfunded and the question was, where's the justice in that? The intervention episode had this terrific line where the mayor of Brooklyn said, "My constituents are dying in the streets and I'm still waiting for intervention here." So I guess my question to Oxfam is, what would be the 'fair' share for these nations they fingered to donate? Why should they donate when there are people living below the poverty line, most of whom are children? This is a natural disaster, an 'Act of God', not something you can lay at their feet and ask for compensation.

But the thing is, I believe in helping others and making this world a better place (despite not believing in divine carrot and stick system) and there's a much much better argument to be made on why they should donate more rather than they can therefore they should. It is in their interest after all. I supported the Iraqi liberation but the gods know how much it hurt their image overseas, espcially in nations with predominantly Muslim populations (something I never quite figured since the Ba'ath party was for pan-Arab secularist nationalism. They hated the Islamists). The response after the Tsunami and the help that they are rendering in the quake zone does wonders to patch over these differences and demonstrate that they are a force of good. You don't want the most effective aid givers to be extremist fundamentalist of whatever stripe coming in and giving a dose of hatred with every blanket. You want a stable prosperous economy and country because they tend to be liberal democracies and they tend to have less extremists.

So in conclusion, I guess what I wanted to say is lay off the guilt trip once in a while and appeal to the logical sensibilities. If you can sell it as doing good while pushing your own self-interest, you've won the battle.




Post a Comment

<< Home