Free riding, express voting and charity

America is an amazingly liberal country. Citizens invest a lot of time, effort and money to help the poor and the victims and to advance other suitable causes. But in light of this fact, why do so many people think that we should use the government to take from some, forcibly support and give to others, rather than relying on individuals and voluntary organizations for charitable purposes.

One argument stems from a so-called free-rider problem, which results in people giving less voluntary charity than they “really” want to contribute, if we leave those choices to their voluntary effort. In short, the central argument is that my personal contribution will have virtually no effect on poverty reduction. As a result, although I want to help, I contribute less, or maybe not at all, because the problem of poverty can affect my wealth.

This argument leads to the conclusion that our government needs, and the power to compel the people, to force us to pay “what we really want” to tax more than what we have voluntarily paid, which presumably makes “donors” Good to be involved.

This is an incredible argument. The problem of “helplessness in the face of the severity of poverty” does not mean that people now give less than they want. As EC Pasur writes, “The idea of ​​a free rider … has been widely misused in charity.” While it is true that my potential contributions are admirably small enough to reduce the existence of poverty, my potential contributions are large enough that I can do something about the poverty of a particular person, situation or group that I encounter. In situations like this, the Free Rider problem only arises if I think about some overall poverty, but not about the poor people I face. And it seems to be a very unimaginable combination of choices. Furthermore, we can join groups with others where our contributions are more influential towards “making a difference” in certain areas (which was, in fact, one of the primary principles of a church where I supervised charitable giving for years).

But that’s not the biggest problem with the argument that “government coercion forces us to give what we want”. To the extent that free-rider problems occur, it is true that government intervention can change how much charity is provided. But that doesn’t mean the results are closer to what we want to give than what we actually want to give. One of the main reasons is called expressive voting.

Imagine that your vote is likely to be an election result worth tens of thousands of dollars, much more than the adversity you faced in your 2020 vote. Mechanically seen শুধুমাত্র only as an improved end-to-end-the expected value of that vote is one cent ($ 10,000 divided by 1 million). Such a small receipt cannot explain the decision to vote, much less unwavering support for a particular candidate or measure. Even if the remuneration increased to $ 1,000,000, its material cost would still be only $ 1 (1 1,000,000 divided by 1 million), creating virtually identical results.

Although in addition to the mechanical value of voting, people often think about the expressive value of voting-they believe what their vote says about them. They may want to vote for something because it embellishes a noble self-character or makes them feel better for a position they want to be associated with. For example, a vote can verify one’s self-worth with examples such as “I’m generous,” “I’m caring,” “I’m patriotic,” “I’m not racist.”

As an example, consider one of the “1 percent” facing a vote to raise taxes on the “rich.” With one in one million possibilities of changing the election results, the expected cost of voting materials to increase one’s taxes by 1 million is 1. Therefore, if the value of showing their generosity towards themselves and / or others by voting for the proposal exceeds $ 1, such voters will benefit by voting against their vested interests (i.e., they will advance what they think).

So, once we incorporate this expressive motive for voting, can we be sure that voting for a proposal that will give a million dollars out of the voter’s pocket to a special government poverty effort (i.e., অংশ 1,000,000 will be their share of the tax bill) is actually theirs? How much more do they “really want to give” than what they choose to do with their own resources? No.

Many people would be willing to bear the expected additional burden of 1 to vote for their $ 1,000,000 share, but would not actually be willing to donate নিজস্ব 1,000,000 of their own money for the same purpose. In other words, the cost of voting for that 1 1 million through the government is much higher, actually much less than the cost of paying 1 1 million, and that artificially low price makes people willing to vote for something that they actually want to give much more. .

As a result, we can’t say how much people will vote for charities (their share) is a more accurate indicator of what they want to do than what they actually do with their own money. Furthermore, if the problem of free riders is not very big (i.e., those who think about poverty care about the poor people who come in contact with them, so give them whatever they want, even if they are given something private) Will. Even if some amount of free-riding exists, I believe that what we actually do with our money is a more accurate indicator than what we vote to do with it, because of the massive effective subsidy for voting to feel good about yourself.

In fact, it is highly commendable that such voting for charitable purposes can make people worse. And that “solution” to the free-rider problem will greatly enlarge the government, which is seldom an effective way to advance the welfare of society.

In addition, I think my vision reflects the Constitution and the beliefs of that era. The Constitution does not mention a federal role in the field of charity, nor does it mention its widely accepted meaning in American history. As Grover Cleveland said nearly a century later, in vetoing federal aid to drought-stricken Texas farmers:

I do not find any warrant for such an allocation in the Constitution and I do not believe that the powers and responsibilities of the general government should be extended to alleviate personal grievances which are not properly related to public service or benefits. … The friendship and philanthropy of our countrymen can always be relied upon to deliver their fellow citizens from misfortune … In such cases federal aid encourages the expectation of paternity care from the government and weakens the strength of our national character among our people. Kindness prevents attitudes and behaviors that strengthen the bonds of a common brotherhood.

Gary M. Gals

Gary M. Gals

Dr. Gary Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine.

His research focuses on the role of independence, including public finance, public choice, firm theory, industry organization, and the views of many classical liberals and American founders.

His books included The path to policy failure, Defective premises, Defective policy, Messenger of peaceAnd Line of Liberty.

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