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Dan Hannan MEP posts a telling story on his blog today.  He recounts how MEPs were outbidding each other three years ago to offer your money for the victims of the tsunami.  Let’s give a million euros for disaster relief, said one MEP.  No, five million, cried another!  Dan continues:

"And so it went on, each speaker attracting warm applause from Euro-MPs who felt warm about the fact that they were applauding. Then an Italian Christian Democrat, a gently mannered Catholic, rose with a suggestion. Why didn’t we make a personal gesture? Why didn’t each colleague contribute a single day’s attendance allowance to the relief fund?  Immediately the warmth drained from the room. Those who had been hoarsely cheering the allocation of squillions of their constituents’ money were stony at the thought of chipping in €290 of their own. (Long-standing readers of this blog will be aware that, on top of their salaries and various other perks, MEPs get paid for turning up and signing the attendance register.) The poor Italian sat down to one of the most hostile silences I can remember, and the idea was immediately dropped."

It is the great truth about socialists and statists.  They’re always generous with taxpayers’ money.  A few further observations:

  • Liberals want to spend others’ money, not their own: I remember after the 1992 General Election hearing a Labour supporter moaning that the extra tax that they would have been happy to pay – had Kinnock and John Smith won – would now be denied to the NHS.  After hearing this self-righteousness for what felt like a small eternity I suggested that she could always donate the money directly to her local hospital.  She went deliciously silent – like the MEPs – on the subject.  Peter Lilley once mischievously suggested a Voluntary Equality Tax for all such left-liberals: "By ticking the VET box on their tax return they would allow the Inland Revenue to remove any income or wealth in excess of the national average and redistribute it to whichever underprivileged group or public service the taxpayer designated. For some reason the idea failed to catch on among those who are normally so keen to promote a more equal society!"
  • Conservatives are more generous than liberals: Research in the USA shows that conservatives are much more generous givers than liberals: "People who identify themselves as conservatives donate money to charity more often than people who identify themselves as liberals. They donate more money and a higher percentage of their incomes.  It is not that conservatives have more money. Liberal families average 6 percent higher incomes than conservative families." (Thomas Sowell).
  • Spending other people’s money tends not to be efficient: All of this reminds me about Milton Friedman’s four tiered hierarchy of spending money wisely: "There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income."

PS Back to the tsunami… if you weren’t online yesterday you may have missed Andrew Mitchell MP’s article on the work that the world still needs to do in order to be ready to respond to natural disasters.

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