Donations

Consider the argument that runs as follows: “If we abolished taxation, private donation would cover the costs of the public goods that the government currently pays for. If it fails to do so, that just shows that people didn’t really care enough about the thing to give their money for it.” A recent available near-example: Alex Zavoluk argues that the welfare state is possibly less effective than private charity.

Ignore for now the obvious coordination problem aspect. Couldn’t we simply make a symmetric argument?

“If we abolished the free market, private donation would incentivise creation of better goods and services. If people don’t freely give some of their state-issued money* to whichever* state-owned widget-maker they like best, that just shows that they don’t really care enough about having specifically that brand of widgets.”

Is there anything fundamental to break the symmetry here? Or should we admit that we should expect the public good to be as effectively provided for under total capitalism as high-quality production would be incentivised under communism? Which is to say, not very?

* – I am aware that “having money” and “having multiple competing providers of goods” are not considered typical parts of a socialist state. I don’t see the relevance, though – suppose that they were, then what?

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