Saturday, December 23, 2006


I'm in the midst of cleaning up my home page in preparation for moving it from the university domain to our company server. So I stumbled upon the link I put in to Amnesty International.

I have an ambivalent attitude towards charity organisations in general. I think we ("we" as in people like me who can listen to Wilhelm Kempff and Alfred Brendel all day long) have a responsibility to help people, even if they are half way round the globe. The mere fact that we know about them and easily have the resources to help is enough to institute the responsibility.

It's like if you encounter someone lying on the highway with a broken leg in the middle of the night. As soon as you see that person, you have a responsibility to help. It's a criminal offense not to do so.

That said I'm not particularly fond of private organisations spending money and resources on collecting monetary donations. They do so by promoting guilt, which is a horrible thing to do. It also seems wasteful. The tax system is already implemented and works. And I think it favours short-sighted fire extinguishing instead of long-term pulls. People donate a little to nurture their conscience when a major disaster has happened, and then half a year later go vote for a party that cuts the foreign support in half.

Reminds me about the tragedy of the commons, an interesting essay which among other things touches upon why a completely free market is not always a good idea and why taxes are sometimes preferable to the initiative of individuals, given the nature of human kind.

But back to Amnesty. I'm a member of Amnesty (and paying to be so) because I believe Amnesty is actually working on a long-term project, securing the rights and the freedom of people. Basic human rights cannot be taken for granted, not even today.

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