Sunday, September 6, 2009

Charity and punishment

It is extraordinary and deeply troubling that some charities are so desperate to enter the market that they are prepared to run prisons. (Charity and Punishment, Guardian 4/9/09). I fail to see how punishment and incarceration could ever be a viable charitable object – as Libby Brooks says this is “a troubling step too far”. Such a move distorts any sensible meaning of the term charity.
I have other concerns too. If there is no part of the public or private sector that charities might not consider operating in, then in effect their claim to special treatment as charities starts to disappear. Some of the advantages that charities have hitherto rightly enjoyed in terms of tax and gift aid then start to look like unfair distortions of the market. Why should some types of agency competing in this open market have such unfair advantages if actually they are following the money like everyone else? The whole rationale for such advantages start to disappear when charities are so keen to sacrifice their mission for the market. This starts to endanger the whole notion of charity status itself. This is why the Charity Commission must take a stand on this issue and I urge them to rule that incarceration and punishment that are core aspects of any bid to run prisons should not be subsidised by an organisation’s charitable status.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Irony is dead! - Blair says unrestrained riches are bad whilst sunning on a yacht

So according to Tony Blair "without God's Truth at its centre, no community can fulfil its potential." The pursuit of maximum short term profit without proper regard to the communal good is, he says "a mistake and leads to neither profit nor good". If this is so than just where was he when his Government were making it clear that they "had no problems with people getting filthy rich"? Why was his government presiding over a continuing deregulation of the banking sector that nearly led to economic meltdown?
With his family circumstances now almost a byword for acquisitiveness this is taking his recent Catholic conversion much to far. When he finally appears as a penniless mendicant in sackcloth and ashes we might just believe him. No, after Iraq, probably not even then!
Interestingly as part of this "analysis" he distinguishes two different senses of the word community: "one to distinguish it from government, to emphasise civil society ... the other is just to describe the general community of public opinion". Both of these attempts at definition are interesting but ultimately facile. The former because it shows how in his mind the discourse around "community" is deliberately posed as being against government and the state and can then be used as a stick to beat public provision - as part of a discourse that pushes privatisation and is prepared to use the "voluntary and community sector" as a smokescreen or accomplice in this process - classic New Labour.
The notion that public opinion is itself a community sucks any possible meaning out of the word that it ever claimed to have in the first place.
And here he is making this humble submission whilst holidaying on a millionare's yacht in the middle of the Mediterranean!