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The destruction of civil society continues to gather speed

If there is one thing that statists of all parties hate, it is being ignored. They cannot abide the idea that there could be a solution to any problem anywhere that does not involve the state and its force backed regulations.

And so the Charities Commission is to have its powers vastly increased so that the state, and only the state, gets to say what is a Charity and what constitutes a ‘public benefit’. Not only can the state decide who gets preferential tax treatment, soon it’s bureaucrats will be able to test for ‘public interest’ according to their own judgement and if they are not satisfied…

…the Commission will declare the organisation no longer a charity. And then, under the new Bill, its endowments can be seized and given to a charity of whose aims the bureaucrats do approve.

The fascist approach has clearly won out over the old socialist approach of simple ‘nationalisation’. In the fascist way of doing thing, individuals and companies and indeed ‘private’ charities could remain in ‘ownership’ of the means of production, but only if they actually used them in accordance with the government’s national objectives. Clearly this is Britain’s future. You can set up a charity and get endowments from willing people, but if the state decides it disapproves, it will simple take the money are give it to someone more politically correct. Can you imagine a charity in the future saying anything that might displease or embarrass a future British government?

35 comments to The destruction of civil society continues to gather speed

  • Eric Jacobson

    My God. At first I thought, ‘the Government are merely incompetent’, back in the era when quangos began to sprout up.

    Then I thought, ‘they’re not just incompetent, but PC incompetent’, about the time antiwar protesters were arrested for, well, protesting, and ‘Bollocks to Blair’ t-shirts became verboten.

    Then I thought, ‘these people are out of control’, about the time certain North Wales police types began their various nonsensical rants, fire brigade employees were not just penalized for refusing to attend a ‘gay pride’ event, but ordered to attend ‘re-education classes’ (to which my response would’ve been, ‘f**k off, a**hole’ to whomever told me to do so.

    We have Brazilians shot and elderly Christians arrested for distributing tracts; PCs refuse to do anything about nutters screaming death threats and waving placards threatening those who ‘insult Islam’–but are quick to arrest those who protest such behavior. If lunatics harass worshippers at Winchester Cathedral and yell threats, the police do nothing.

    We now face being tracked wherever we drive, aka ‘road pricing'; we will have new, highly intrusive census in five years; inspectors can enter our homes at will and arbitrarily assign valuations based on ‘nice views from the windows’. If you happen to live in a neighborhood with good schools and safe streets, you must pay for that, too. No point in any community improving itself. Hell, if your neighbor upgrades his digs, you get to pay a higher property assessment.

    I even read of very, very scary suggestions that the population be ‘microchipped’–for easy access to medical records should someone be found unconscious, no doubt.

    This government is evil–fascist and evil. It is out of control, trampling local democracy at every step, imposing ever more surveillance, taxing at every turn.

    The question is: what the heck can we do? Must we emigrate? What?

    Sorry for the rant; the bad news is coming so very fast these days I had to vent a bit….

  • Johnathan Pearce

    It makes me wonder about the future of organisations like the Institute for Economic Affairs. Or, for that matter if a Tory government gets in, the likes of the IPPR.

    The real fundamental problem is the tax-exempt status in the first place. Far better to sweep away all tax exemptions and let people spend their money how they like. Also this is a good reason for cutting, if not scrapping, inheritance tax.

    This is the same argument as about subsidies. If you give out goodies to certain groups, pretty soon control of the goodies is a matter of public policy and you get stuff like this.

  • J

    “PCs refuse to do anything about nutters screaming death threats and waving placards threatening those who ‘insult Islam'”

    For the record, the person in question has been arrested, and is currently being tried, so it’s not really fair to accuse the state of inaction here…

    Back to charities – Since the only difference between a charity and anything else is that the Government treats one of them differently regarding tax, it’s not entirely unreasonable for the government to say what is and isn’t a charity.

    What’s depressing are the criteria they are proposing – namely, no criteria at all, the mere opinion of the commission regarding public benefit will do. What we really need to know is what the appeals process for this is. Once you’ve been given the black spot from the commission, what can you do? Is there a period for you to reform and become more inline with the comissions ideals? Is there an appeal, and to who?

    *someone* has to determine what is and isn’t a valid charity – I don’t have a problem with that.

  • guy herbert

    *someone* has to determine what is and isn’t a valid charity – I don’t have a problem with that.

    Well until last year it was a matter of common law. The problem being that the common law definition excluded some organisations the ruling clique affects to approve of (at least while they don’t criticise the commissars) or restricted their political pronouncements (Oxfam repeatedly having been warned for being too near the edge), and includes some they would like to destroy – such as public schools and various other private donations pursuing benefits limited in ways they don’t approve of.

  • I had a feeling this was coming. I have posted before about the oleaginous Miliband and his intention to absorb “the third sector” (actually the first sector, but lets not get chonological…) as a cover for control, assimilation and leverage.

    I guess he has bypassed my first thought – that of a subtle control by first funding to make dependent and the threat of withdrawl once on the hook (similar to how a drug dealer rounds up new ‘customers’) and has gone right for the jugular, not passed ‘Go’, etc. (but no doubt we have to pay £200).

    I suspect the avaricious old cyclops Brown is behind it.

    To me, charity and Not-For-Profit is a powerful enabling force. To have this kind of (illegal?) asset grab is another way in which the government sets itself up to be corrupted, bought-off, influenced and lobbied. It basically DEMANDS entities suck up just to survive.

    I agree – it is Fascism.

    I’d claim my £5 if I knew I could donate it to a charity and have that money REMAIN there.

  • *someone* has to determine what is and isn’t a valid charity – I don’t have a problem with that.

    J, sure, but that is not what I am really drawing attention to as that is already the case…the huge change (i.e. what makes it a very fascist approach to things) that you have avoided commenting on is that the Charities Commission will be able to not just deny preferential tax status but to seize endowments and give them to someone else who they (the state) decide should have the money, i.e. both dissolving the charity and simply disregarding the wishes of whoever provided the now disallowed charity with the confiscated endowment!

  • Dalesman

    While I deplore the move in principle, is it naive to think it could be aimed at ‘educational’ charities who fund terrorism?

  • While I deplore the move in principle, is it naive to think it could be aimed at ‘educational’ charities who fund terrorism?

    I am pretty sure you are not correct… but even if you are, one thing that can be guaranteed as surely as the planet orbits the sun is that a law brought in to target a specific class of person will always end up being used against everyone it can be used against… examples of this are almost beyond number.

  • Perry I agree with your characterisation of Britain as a fascist state (i.e. corporatist, collectivist, statist, where service in the name of and for the state is the highest objective) … the odd thing is to find oneself, after many years of dreary lefties ya-booing about the fascism of the authorities actually agreeing with them … albeit it was their very ya-booing, and its ability to hold the cultural elites to moral ransom that finally got us to where they claimed we were all along. I wonder if that makes us bedfellows with them?

  • MarkE

    The British will never stand for this; as soon as they realise animals are not part of “the public” and the RSPCA has gone they’ll be out in the street ripping up the cobbles in Whitehall!

  • MarkE – “The British will never stand for this”

    Plump, complacent, smug and uninterested. The British will stand for anything.

  • J writes:

    Back to charities – Since the only difference between a charity and anything else is that the Government treats one of them differently regarding tax, it’s not entirely unreasonable for the government to say what is and isn’t a charity.

    I rather thought it was Parliament that taxed, rather than the Government. And that it’s the Government (mostly) that spends.

    It’s also Parliament that makes the (statutory) laws: by writing them down for everyone to see. This is rather than someone else inventing them as they go along (or have I misunderstood what is proposed).

    Best regards

  • Johnathan Pearce

    To reprise my earlier point: the problem is that we have tax exemptions in the first place. Scrap the exemptions and cut general tax rates across the board. Remove all these tax loopholes. The advantage of this “flat tax” approach is that the whole army of lobbyists who make a fat living trying to prise some advantage out of the Treasury is killed off, and all that energy is directed to a more productive outlet.

    It is only a matter of time before such loopholes provided NuLabour or others with an excuse to start deciding a, what is or is not a genuine “charity” and b, what happens to the money to charties that they disapprove of. None of this should be surprising but Perry has rightly shown how corrosive of civil society this sort of thing is in the long run. Make no mistake, Labour never saw an autonomous institution it did not want to destroy. Look at what Labour and the Liberals (liberal, riiiight) did to Friendly Societies, private schooling, etc, etc.)

  • guy herbert

    While I deplore the move in principle, is it naive to think it could be aimed at ‘educational’ charities who fund terrorism?

    No; the proposal has been on the stocks for a long, long time and is aimed squarely at educational charities such as Eton College. “Terrorist” funds can be sequestered whoever has them, so they don’t need this law to seize them. What are more pernicious even than the seizure and liquidation that Perry points out, are the new powers of the Charity Commissars Commissioners to regulate (and therefore indirectly to direct) charities, by laying down policies and reporting requirements.

  • Robert Hale

    “The British will stand for anything”
    Are you so sure?
    So much of what this Government is proposing, including the council tax revaluation, road pricing and other “green”-inspired taxes, will hit so widely that it could inspire a real backlash.

  • A real backlash? Don’t make me laugh.

    The first pol. to offer a solution comprising subsidies to ‘equalise’ the ‘unfair’ effects of C.T. revaluation, road pricing etc. will be the one to buy himself out of the mess by creating more of same: people may get miffed, but only until a pol promises them that someone else is about to get theirs.

    If you’re expecting a revolution of principle, don’t hold your breath….

  • One thing that may restrain the decertification of religious charities is that the US makes reports of all countries’ religious freedom and decertifying religious charities and seizing assets (like, say, a religiously affiliated hospital) would certainly end up on the report for the UK. For others, like Eton College, I would suggest creating an international arm and start moving assets overseas beyond the ability of the crown to seize. You may lose the buildings but the mission might go on, at least virtually.

  • Anonymous Coward

    For those of you thinking of making substantial bequests to charity, I’d have your lawyer draft the bequest so that it is conditional on the charity in question continuing in existence / continuing to carry out particular work, with a gift over in favour of another charity (of your choice) should the first charity cease to qualify. If nothing else, it’ll keep the money out of the hands of the statists.

  • Have charities been complaining about this legislation? If not, why not?

    More importantly, who’s behind this legislation and why?

    I doubt that this would fly all that well if they tried that over here. I’d be sure that all charitable organizations would immediately crank up the lobbying & legal efforts to squash such legislation.

  • FAO Eric, I trust you won’t mind the correction, but we are already tracked and our movements are already recorded. Road Pricing would simply add another tax to the status quo.

  • Formerly Great Britain has been sinking towards Eurabia-ness for several years now. Ban St George, prosecute for hate crimes anyone who speaks out against Islam, arrest people who defend themselves successfully, put muzzles on police dogs, arrest students for wanting to be put in an English-speaking study group – they’re building their own funeral pyre.

    The statue of Lord Nelson would either weep, or shout with rage, if it knew what that once-Great country has become.

    Sometimes I think that the decline started when the d’Oyly Carte company folded.

    As far as “not standing for this”, the British of the 60s and before might not have, but the British of today have, for the most part, been educated into submission.

  • craig

    Hey, it’s not without precedent — 450-500 years ago, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I did the exact same thing to the assets of the Catholic Church!

  • Ann

    So, does this mean that British charities will have to locate–at least their money–overseas?

    That would seem a pretty easy solution.

    Anyone want to take bets on the first charity to be shut down and have its assests siezed? Anyone want to bet it will be a Jewish, Pro-Israel charity?

  • Paul Marks

    Guy is correct, the measure (and others) is aimed at such charities as Eton – for some time there have been demand that the private schools undertake “social duties” (as defined by the powers that be).

    It will be the same with such charties as the those that work to preserve historic houses – indeed all charities.

    For example, a children’s charity that argued that married couples are the best people to have and look after children could simply be deemed political (and guilty of “discrimination”).

    As such charities already get government grants and are have paid staff (recuited, like Civil Servants, via advert in the “Guardian” newspaper) there are only a few charities left in the field of welfare that are not P.C. already – the government could get rid of them without many people even being aware of it.

    Certainly such groups as the I.E.A. and other such could be considered “political” and in violation of basic “human rights” (remember many modern “rights” are “positive” ones, i.e. government benefits such as education – so any group that attacked such basic rights could be considered in violation of basic human rights).

    Perry is correct that powers supposdely directed at one group of people are soon directed at others. I can remember when the power of government to take assets which had not been proved to be the result of crime was justified on the basis that it would “only be used against drug dealers”, now the assets of virtually anyone can be “frozen” (a similar story could be told in the United States where R.I.C.O. and the rest of it were justified on the basis that such powers would “only be used against the Mafia”).

    As for whether the British people will “put up with it”.

    Well of course most of them will put up with it.

    A few understand what liberty is about (I flatter myself that I do), but most British people could not give a toss.

    Take the example of the historian Andrew Roberts, a man with many faults no doubt – but he understands what every English speaking consititutional thinker used to understand, that liberty depends, in the last resort, on weapons being in the hands of the public.

    The Economist, its review of Andrew Roberts’ History of the English Speaking Peoples, noted that he held that the liberty of Americans depended (in the last resort) on the armed population (i.e. the liberty of people depends on those people themselves – their ability and will to preserve it against the powers that be).

    “What about the Supreme Court” sneared the Economist.

    The laughter of all the Founding Fathers (even Hamilton) at the idea that the last defence of liberty is government appointed judges would be loud indeed. And Hampden (and so many other historic British figures) would also see the absurdity in the position of the Economist.

    However, I doubt that more that one British person in a hundred today could understand the matter.

  • andrew duffin

    Guy and Paul are right.

    This almost exclusively aimed at private schools.

    The private schools ought to have known, as soon as they took the state’s shilling, that the state would end up controlling them.

    They need to accept, now, that their charitable status is gone for good, and go properly independent. It’s the only way.

    An upside is that they won’t have to share their facilities with the local neds.

  • guy herbert

    TM Lutas,

    like, say, a religiously affiliated hospital

    I don’t think we have any of those any more. All the great religious hospital foundations that began with St Bartholemew’s were seized by the state in 1949.

  • guy herbert

    andrew duffin,

    The private schools ought to have known, as soon as they took the state’s shilling, that the state would end up controlling them.

    Well they haven’t for the most part, taken it. Many of them pre-dated the looter state. To think of charitable status as existing for the purpose of collecting tax-breaks is anhistorical. It is connected with the demise of the religious houses under the Tudors – the stream of charity law pourer down the drain in 2005 finds its source in a 1603 statute of the first Elizabeth. It represents both an early form of incorporation, and a way in which English Law permits purpose-trusts.

  • guy herbert

    All the great religious hospital foundations that began with St Bartholemew’s were seized by the state in 1949.

    Actually, now that I think about it, Barts and the like were seized by Henry VIII, but refounded under Royal Charter before evolving into charities… rather like my old school. The absorption of ‘voluntary aided’ schools by the state also began under Atlee, but proceeded subtly and slowly until recently.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Guy.

    Thomas Cromwell seems (if my memory from school days is correct) to have intended the property and institutions stolen to be be held by the state for ever (indeed some of his ideas are close to “modern” Welfare State ideas), but Henry sold the land to fund his wars in Scotland, and the various insitutions (like Barts) managed to stay (or become) independent of government even though the link with Rome was no more.

    Even the Church of England never became a full “state church” (in spite of the Crown having the right to say who Bishops should be), perhaps because Henry VIII never became a Lutherian (he was a Catholic anti Papist) the Church somehow managed to retain a lot of independence.

    There is a very big gap between an “Established Church” and a “State Church”.

    Perhaps this is partly because Thomas Cromwell’s dream of professional civil service never came to pass (at least not till the late 19th century).

    The government could pass many nasty statutes (there were many wildly statist statutes under Elizabeth I), but these were not fully enforced even in the South East of England – and in the north and west of this island they were almost a dead letter.

    A few paid officials in London (without any full administrative structure) and lots of unpaid J.P.s in the rest of the country (mostly local landowners who took on the job as part of their social position) simply could not set up a state controlled society – whatever the statutes said. Other nations in Europe were rather different.

    Your old school looks nice (and in a nice town). I remember from my own school days (so many years ago) being presented with the Eldon (spelling) position that Thomas Cromwell was very important because of his “revolution in government” without which England could not have developed into the leading nation of Europe – I argued that he was important because his effort at administrative revolution failed and that this why England (and later Britian – the United Kingdom) developed into the most economically important nation in Europe.

    Almost needless to say, this was not a popular position with the powers that be.

    Still it was tolerated. Unlike my D.Phil thesis on Edmund Burke at York many years later. Perhaps I should have stuck to history rather than going into political philosophy (the history of political thought is a bit of a cross over area).

    Historians seem to be a bit more tolerant than political philosophers (of course if someone calls himself a “political scientist” they are almost bound to be intolerant).

  • Michiganny

    Is there recent published scholarship on the retreat of British liberty? Or is it only written for the drawer?

  • Henry VIII and Elizabeth I did the exact same thing to the assets of the Catholic Church!

    When we’d visit England and its cathedrals, my English Catholic grandmother would mutter under her breath, “Stolen property!”

    It was so…pre-Vatican II. LOL

  • Gabriel

    “Eldon (spelling)”

    It’s Elton. If you’re interested, that position has come under a great deal of attack recently, mainly from those who regard Cromwell as more or less an inert tool of Henry VIII.
    The assumption that the statist reforms of Henry’s rule (including those taken when Wosey was king of the hill) were good things, but curiously ineffective, is still very much de rigeur, however.

    (Elton, it should be pointed out, was no leftist, Bismarckian, perhaps, would be an accurate description. I would say pessismistic -which he had good personal reasons for- Hobbesian, but I rather like Hobbes and I don’t care much for Elton. His only famous utterance in regard to politcal theory, and unlike leftist historians he mostly stuck to his area of competence, is something to the effect that governments should be strong if they are to exist at all, which I suppose is true, but not in the way he meant it.)

  • Gabriel

    Well until last year it was a matter of common law. The problem being that the common law definition excluded some organisations the ruling clique affects to approve of (at least while they don’t criticise the commissars) or restricted their political pronouncements (Oxfam repeatedly having been warned for being too near the edge), and includes some they would like to destroy – such as public schools and various other private donations pursuing benefits limited in ways they don’t approve of.

    Absolutely. This isn’t a problem of expanded power per se., but expanded arbitrary power.

  • Paul Marks

    Elton – yes of course, how I have fallen apart Gabriel (and I met the man once).

    I did not think Elton was a lefist – more a Conservative party man, but not of the better sort (as you say a Bismarkian).

    On Thomas Cromwell, one would have to go back to the primary sources (for example letters written by him or by other people at the time) to try and work out what he wanted to do (and I have never done so). For Henry, it would have to be what other people wrote about their conversations with him (and other such) – which I also have not done.

    All I did (as a school boy) was interpret the secondary sources I was presented with – not real work.

    As for recent work on the decline of liberty in Britain, in my youth I offered to write a work for the Libertarian Alliance but they did not want it (even though I would have written it for nothing).

    The late Dr Tame and Dr Gabb both wrote works on the decline of liberty in Britain (indeed that is how they became Dr Tame and Dr Gabb) but neither ever showed me their work.

    Greenleaf’s “The British Political Tradition” (two volumes) is the best general work I know of (libertarians get a mention “the libertarian strand” in volume II, if my memory serves).

  • I’m not saying the Telegraph article is flat-out wrong, but I can’t find anything in the Bill itself which allows for this whole “seizing Unapproved Charity’s property and giving it to Approved Charity” business. Naturally I haven’t read the whole thing because it’s written in the normal obfuscatory language, cross-references stuff I can’t find and lapses into Latin from time to time. Others better versed in such matters might like to peruse it and comment.