21 Jul 2011

Nelson Mandela and Volunteering

Shameless Self-Promotion 8 Comments

When I’m not breakin’ all the rules regarding interest theory, I take the time to criticize a call for people to volunteer more.

8 Responses to “Nelson Mandela and Volunteering”

  1. JimS says:

    Mmmmm. Cracker Barrel!

    Boy, you got this one right, Dr. Bob. Excellent piece.

    You probably did not comment on it, as it was a little outside the scope of the essay’s theme, but schools are pushing the volunteerism issues big time. In fact, a certain number of service hours are required for graduation from high school or college, in many states (Interestingly, time in the military does NOT count toward the service requirement, but peace corps time does). How muddled thinking has become at our institutions of learning to believe their can be such a thing as forced volunteerism; if it is required, it isn’t given freely (I feel the same about tax deductions for donations, it sort of tranishes the gesture to profit monetarily from alledgedly giving.)

    As a self employed individual, I am painfully aware how if I do not serve, I am not paid, and must adjust or do something else.


  2. david nh says:

    Go get’em, Bob

  3. Teo says:

    Breakin’ all the rules, eh?


    Couldn’t resist.

  4. Matt Flipago says:

    You are forgetting three important things of volunteer work. The weakest one is to build class unitity, and destroy the symptom of class war. Second volunteering can remind one of the works that are needed in community that are not met though business, for a variety f reason, and that only donating money sometimes disconnects one from knowing the need of the poor. Lastly, although profit can be good for the community, we must not forget the need for volunteering in a world, where gov’t distorts profit as a source for good and exacerbates many problems. The poor are hurt both by regulation and rent seeking, leaving profit not necessarily to be a force for good, and ignoring the importance it has to help the poor(a dollar of a rich man is worth less to him, than that of a poor man. Meaning economic profit is skewed to help the rich, versus the poor on utilitarian grounds). This is both the morally right thing to do, by helping the poor, but fights the evil of government oppression. We mus remember that profit is not always a good for society(rent seeking), and it is that reason that I say volunteering more is important to society.
    Nor do I see a necessary implication of the view that profit is not in the writing. Though may don’t hold this view, it is entirely consistent with your economic views, if the assumptions ring true.

    • JimS says:

      Some interesting points Matt, and certainly most feel for the plight of the poor, but as you well know, gifts given are not always those that are most wanted or needed (Remember the socks or under wear you got for Christmas or the vertically stripped trousers your Mom thought were so fashionable, but were simply a catalyst for getting your butt kicked at school?) Gift giving is very wasteful and so is volunteerism, which I view as a varied form of gift giving. (There are a number of books and web sites on the topic of economics and gift giving)

      As von Mises points out in “Human Action”, our primary motive in action is to relieve some personal discomfort. We work to eat and house ourselves. Most of us act according to Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, some of us have that pyramid inverted. Perhaps the question is, does the need to right the pyramid reside with the individual or society or perhaps some do gooder volunteer? Is one’s life theirs to mess up as they see fit? If the responsibility is with some volunteer, where does this end, especially if volunteerism is government sactioned or a forced volunteerism? We have had a taste of the direction we are headed with people desiring to ban salt, sugars and fats (It’s for your own good).

      Let me take this back into economic considerations. Economics need not be soley concerned with dollars, production or empl;oyment, it dictates how we allocate our time, labor, services, perhaps even our feelings. Personally, I do not believe there is such a thing as altruism. Individuals do things to satisfy themselves and volunteering satisfies a greater need for the volunteer than it does for the person in need. It may give a warm feeling in the heart, a sense of purpose, a reason for being, satisfy a sense of obligation (Which is what I believe Mandela is appealing to). It may also give a sense of superiority, a knowing of what is better for someone than that someone themselves. It may even go so far as a coercive effort to take from some and give to others percieved as needing. It may develop into what Hayek called a Fatal Conciet, a self satisfying, self promoting assumed knowledge of knowing what is best for all. This volunteerism , I believe, extends to people voting with the belief that they will get something for nothing, or that certain groups will be taxed to alleviate the needs of those less fortunate. Some may vote to tax themselves in a twisted sense of volunteerism (certainly the case for some in CA). Most importantly, the indicators of what is demanded or needed is skewed by the supply of self satisfying do gooders and the lack of any means of recognizing demand from the receivers. I know. I have done assistance work, delivering the government cheese, handing out food to the homeless; in every case, it is unbelievable how many people attempt to take, no matter their circumstance, simply because it is free or they possess a sense of entitlement, no matter how prosperous their circumstance. I’ll never forget the healthy athletic young man with the genuine shearling coat driving a Lexus with a handicap sticker using food stamps. The market efficiencies and balances are nearly non-existent in voulteerism.

      Despite this, you are correct, you help a friend or neighbor in true need when you can.


  5. Joe says:

    Thanks for that! I live in South Africa and it’s even worse than you think, for weeks leading up to this “day” our publicly run television stations push patronizing state-sponsored ads about every ten minutes goading and shaming everyone to “spend 67 minutes doing something good for the world” … continually brainwashing everyone with the implied message that if you are simply doing your job, you are not doing anything good for the world, and that only if you are working for free is it something “good”. Everything else is presumably “evil”, though that isn’t stated implicitly. I seem to be one of the only people who complain about it though. Most people just seem to ignore it, but the effect on the collective subconscious of the population must be huge.