This enlightening article from The Telegraph reveals new philanthropic plans in development by the coalition. Potentially, every time you use a bank card or take money from your bank account you will be asked to make a charitable donation. Pin machines will be forced to ask you whether you want to 'round up the pound' and give the surplus to charity. It's all part of the effort to create the 'Big Society' and won't we all feel better for it?
Well, no. Not really.
I am a fairly philanthropic person myself. I drop money into boxes when I have change to hand and occasionally give money online. I try to be well-informed about events and organisations and in the new year I'm considering volunteering for one of several deserving causes (I hasten to point out that this is a personal choice and not one encouraged in any way, shape or form by Mr Cameron and his shabby ensemble). What I detest are the charitable organisations who approach you in the street with their clipboards aloft, determined to cajole you into making a monthly payment to the charity of their choice. This will be a similar scheme on a giant scale.
I can see it having one major repercussion. In my eyes, poor innocent cashiers will take the brunt of any irritation stemming from this question. The less refined amongst us will look up from the machine and make a smart and scathing remark. Nobody likes being told what to do and the pressure is always on when those machines ask you a question you want to say no to. In restaurants when they ask you whether you want to leave a tip (and then charge you the 'standard' tipping price) there is always the knowledge that the server can see you pressing the red button. Will this persuade people to give money they don't want to (and in some cases can't afford to)?
You can't tell people what they should do with their income. Alright, the official argument will be that this is merely encouragement but many people will feel pressured and annoyed by this move should it be put into practice. They will see it as a government ploy to make up with donations the amount they are cutting in the charitable budget. Personally, I think we are a selfish bunch of people. We'll throw money at a charity in order to alleviate any guilt but we won't volunteer at a soup kitchen or deliver food to the elderly. As the article points out, how does this scheme make that situation any better?
We're a fragmented country. Some of what David Cameron is attempting to do I admire. Encouraging those dependant on welfare is good in theory, as is repealing the Human Rights Act (if he ever gets around to it). However, most of his decisions aren't based on a genuine regard for the people of this country. He's trying to save money.
This is simply another one of those tricks. Unfortunately, if it passes into common usage it will be one of those things which never goes away. After all, the public can't begrudge a little more of their money being given to charity surely?
I think if they take much more then it will become a huge issue.