We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

If you’re a UK taxpayer, don’t bother donating to the British Red Cross for the relief of Hurricane Irma. You’re already giving. About £13bn a year of tax. Not all to the Red Cross of course – they get only a fraction of this. The bulk of it goes to teaching Ethiopian nomads how to play electric guitar, setting up pedicure shops in Sudan and sending top British hat-designers to Basutoland to show the natives how to fashion Crêpe De Chine and ostrich feathers into women’s headgear. In other words, the bulk of this money is wasted on hopeless schemes that don’t develop anything by one iota.


16 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Mr Ed

    It is the law of the land in the UK that 0.7% of gross national income be wasted on foreign aid, or development assistance.

    It doesn’t all go to foreigners though, some builds useless airports on St. Helena, a British Overseas Territory (and this might end up being usable with smallish aircraft).

    My foreign aid effort consists in the main of drinking Moldovan, Macedonian and Georgian wine, and Armenian brandy.

  • pete

    Government charity donations are mainly a way of providing amenable middle class employment.

    Helping those in need is a minor consideration.

  • Chip

    The government would never consider a £13 billion tax cut to the country’s most successful entrepreneurs in the hope they would create more wealth with that money.

    But they think nothing of allowing quite possibly the most inexperienced, misguided and non-entrepreneurial people on the planet – bureaucrats – to throw that same money at ostrich feathers.

  • Phil B

    In fact, don’t donate to the Red Cross AT ALL. Pournelles Iron Law of Bureaucracy applies in spades in this instance. I have heard a lot about their operations in Africa (in essence, it is all show, no go) and this article describes how they are not only incompetent but malicious in their efforts:


    The comments are worth reading too.

  • James Hargrave

    Mr Ed – not sweet Georgian reds, I trust.

  • Mr Ed

    James H, my vendor offers the sweet and Western-style dry Saperavi reds, I know what you mean, some might as well be a Ribena and vodka cocktail.

    Phil B from what I have seen of it (not much) the British Red Cross is as contemptible as any other state-funded charity, and I would have thought had abandoned any semblance of neutrality in its politics, per this from its website.

    Speak up for people in crisis

    Our voice will help us transform the way people think about us so that more people access our services, get excited about us and support what we do. We will make sure the voice of the people we help comes through loud and clear. We want to improve lives by bringing about changes in policy and practice

  • bobby b

    Here’s the story of the incredible incompetence that Red Cross exhibited during and after Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac in the USA. They were doing things like sending out 80-truck caravans – empty – to drive around disaster areas to impress visiting politicians and gov officials with their presence.

    They have become one more inefficient political fundraising organization that tries to organize disaster relief only to the extent that it can help their marketing and fundraising efforts. Save your money.

  • Laird

    Mr Ed, that may indeed be the law of the land, but as Paul Marks never tires of reminding us, Parliament is supreme and can pass whatever laws it likes. So that law could certainly be changed, if there were any political will to do so. I would suggest that’s where you should be focusing your efforts: on pressuring your MPs into progressively reducing that number from 0.7% to ever-lower figures, ultimately culminating at zero.

    And in a separate point, you folks have managed to demand a withdrawal from the EU. Of course, the specific terms of that withdrawal are yet to be determined, and there is certainly a rearguard action being conducted by some of the political class to render such “withdrawal” as close to meaningless as they can manage. But at least you did have the vote. How about moving to Phase 2: a public referendum on withdrawing from the United Nations? That corrupt organization isn’t worth a single one of your tax pounds; even its supposedly “charitable” arms (UNESCO, WHO, etc,) are, as the linked article says, utterly corrupt and antithetical to your nation’s interests (as it is to mine as well). You’ve shown it can be done. Start agitating for that referendum, too!

  • Eric

    The problem with universal suffrage is too many people are easily manipulated on an emotional level. I expect it would be a win to keep that percentage from going up.

  • Paul Marks

    Peter Bauer showed many years ago (in such works as “Dissent on Development”) that government “development aid” was actually harmful.

    We also have a massive government deficit -“Austerity” is a LIE – government spending is, overall, just as high as ever.

    Yet the British government continues to spend billions of Pounds (money we do not have) on “Development Aid” that is actually harmful. “If only we had a Conservative government” – yes quite, if only we had a Conservative government.

  • Kevin B

    Laird, the problem with trying to persuade MPs to cut taxpayer funding for overseas aid is that at least half of them – on the left or right – will have spouses with well paying part time sinecures on the boards of some useless NGO and/or children puffing up their CVs on well paid jobs with those self same fake charities.

    And since these Jolyons and Jocastas will move on to become SPADS and then MPs themselves the problem is self sustaining.

    The reason our political elite is so useless is that none of them have done a days real work in their worthless lives. It’s just posh public school, Oxbridge PPE, NGO sinecure, SPAD and then MP or Civil Service. Those that are too useless to get or keep an MP slot will be shoved into the Lords where they will pick up a few more six-figure salary part time gigs on the boards of some parasitic QUANGO where they will carry on pissing away our hard earned cash.

  • Watchman

    Actually I quite like a couple of those schemes – they seem to be about getting people (probably women, but in this context that is sensible) to start businesses and therefore create their own wealth (pedicure shops and hat manufacturers are a good thing – they indicate a society is starting to produce the wealth it needs to stop being poor, and is not exercising control over the appearance and taste of individuals in the way that a tribal society would); this looks like microfinance and/or practical aid, both of which are charitable aims that I can support.

    Not sure about electric guitars for Ethopian nomads, but if they have sources of electricity enough to play them and we get the next great Heavy Metal group from Ethiopia (I assume that is what electric guitars will produce – keyboards always produce dance acts, a globally provable phenomenon)I’m probably not moaning too much. I wouldn’t criticise without seeing the rationale for that one.

    If aid is being inventive, it has a better chance of doing something useful (or at least entertaining, and if this is my money, that’s good enough for me). Of course, I will recite the standard wisdom here that government has no place doing charity, but if it does, having it do things like this rather than giving the money to Oxfam or the like does at least have some potential value, or if it is idiocy, it is at least less dangerous than giving it to an autocratic strongman.

  • Watchman

    Mr Ed,

    You’ve just triggered a flashback with your mention of Vodka Ribena – one of the worst days of my life the day after that (you are meant to substitute all the water with vodka aren’t you?).

  • Snag

    Even the Huffington Post lays the boot into the Red Cross:

    $500m spent – six houses built.


  • Mr Ed


    Sorry, I’ve not actually tried that myself, I was imaging how to synthesise the taste of the sweet Georgian reds. Last bad memory was a night out with the boss involving some pints of beer, a bottle of a Spanish red and a Southern Comfort, but it was definitely the paella that made me ill.