Thursday, July 18, 2013

Phoney Charities and civil society

Christopher Snowdon:
IEA Discussion Paper No. 45
February 2013

It is not precisely news that a large number of organizations that assume the mantle of charities with all the public approval (vague but widespread) that it implies are, in reality, funded by the state that uses taxpayers’ money often to ensure that the organizations in question pursue a political line that is of benefit to it. Nevertheless, this knowledge is carefully hidden, partly by the organizations in question but partly by the public’s own desire not to know the truth, which might result in a completely new way of looking at “settled” notions or supposed right and wrong.

It is, however, useful to have some chapter and verse as we get in this pamphlet and its predecessor, the IEA’s Paper No. 39, also by Christopher Snowdon, published last June and entitled Sock Puppets – How the government lobbies itself and why.

Both papers enumerate organizations that receive money from the government or the EU, which would not exist without that input and which do not, therefore, need to answer to their donors about their activity as charities. Many of them are really lobby groups, coincidentally or not, lobbying for policies that the government or the EU (it is often hard to tell the difference) want to push through and which are not particularly popular with the populace.

With the Euro Puppets there is a further complication: the EU, by and large an unpopular project imposed on the population of various member states by the political elites, has felt for some years that it needs to find some credibility with that population. As it is not about to become accountable or less centralized (au contraire), let alone less devoted to the ideas of regulating every aspect of life it can lay its hands on, it has to think of another solution. One presented itself almost immediately, an adapted version of something instituted in the early Soviet years: the creation of something called civil society. This is an expression that is used more and more and particularly by transnational organizations of which the EU is particularly important as its aim is to become a state (not something it hides or is particularly ashamed of. Such organizations have no accountability and their credibility has to rely on emotionalism rather than political structures, just as the governance they try to impose is managerial (sometimes openly as it happened recently in a few EU member states, sometimes less so, as in normal EU legislation). They, therefore, announce that certain organizations to do with social activity are the real civil society. It just so happens that those organizations are ones either founded or approved of by the governing structures and, as the Euro Puppets demonstrates, funded by them. A closed and rather vicious circle is created: the unaccountable and managerial governance “proves” its credibility by pointing to the support given it by the civil society that consists of organizations it has created and approved that will never display any kind of independence. Needless to say, we are paying for it and for the legislation that those organizations campaign for.

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