Is Private Help a Bad Thing? – Political Spectacles of the Left


Some social and political analysts regard private help as a bad thing.  They speak of the “problem” of food banks, and of America’s “miserly” support for poorer countries.  In fact food banks are a solution, not a problem.  Private generosity has leapt into the breach to help tide people over temporary problems.  The great majority of food bank users do so only once. 

Similarly with US aid to poorer countries.  The United States is regularly berated for being very low on the list of aid givers, but this only applies to government-to-government aid.  Once the private contributions made by Americans to people in poorer countries are counted in, the US rises to the top. In fact US private help is better spent, usually going to people to spend in towns and villages in the local economy, rather than on gold palaces and white elephant steel mills in the desert.

Part of this mismatch arises from the fact that these analysts seem to wear spectacles that admit only light of a political wavelength and ignore private generosity.  The latest victim of this myopia is the “bank of mom and dad.”  It is assumed to be a bad thing that young people should turn to mom and dad to help out with deposits and mortgages.

In many cases these are simply funds that would have been part of an inheritance passed on later.  Instead they are being transferred now, when most needed, and in more tax efficient ways.  And when young people continue to stay with mom and dad instead of striking out on their own, this is presented as a burden.  The reality is that many parents tell of how pleased they are still to be useful and helpful to their offspring, and to give them, through low rents, the chance to accumulate savings of their own. 

What we should be doing, instead of castigating the help that parents freely and gladly give, is to be concentrating our efforts onto those not fortunate enough to have such chances themselves.  They are the problem; for the others it is one that is already being solved.