Ian Birrell talks at UnHerd about how Whitehall corrupts charities by showering them with cash. He’s right, that flood of money will stop mouths. But that’s not the true danger of the combination of the two. Rather, that comes when the charities in receipt of the cash lobby government back. For that becomes the bureaucracy itself using our money to pay to tell the bureaucracy what to do. Reasonableness, even value for money, is not going to get much of a look in in such a circular process.
As Chris Snowdon has been pointing out these years there’s little to explain the existence of of varied anti-smoking bodies other than the rivers of taxpayer cash sent in order to provide a merkin for bureaucratic justifications against smoking.
A baby step has been taken on this issue. Charities do have to curb their political campaigning but are still able to campaign upon specific issues. And cash sent to them by government isn’t restricted to not doing so.
The solution is that old one of sunlight being the best disinfectant. Perhaps we should revive an old idea of Chris Mounsey’s, the Fake Charities register. There, any organisation which received….well, the definition was:
If a charity receives 10 per cent or more of its income, or more than £1m a year, from the Government, and engages in lobbying or influencing policy, then it goes on the list.
That might be too restrictive a definition, might be too loose. We’re interested though in seeing a revival of the idea itself.
After all, as is the current mantra about Facebook and political advertising, if we don’t know who is paying for the propaganda then we don’t know how to weight it properly, do we? Quite how formal and funded such a listing should be, well, we leave that an open question. If the Fair Tax Mark can gain funding then why not the Fair Charity one?