What No One’s Mentioned

Right now, there’s a big kerfuffle on the right side of the internet about Obama’s plan to require or strongly encourage volunteerism among the citizenry in exchange for a $4,000 tax break. It goes something like this: you work up to 100 hours a year in some non-salaried capacity, and the federal government gives you $4,000 dollars off your taxes. You get the money even if you didn’t pay $4,000 in taxes in the first place.

I’ve got several problems with that, personally, but there’s one I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else yet, which is this:

People, generally speaking, will expend the least effort to produce the greatest rewards possible under a given set of circumstances.

Call it rules-lawyering. Call it playing the system. Call it exploitation. Whatever you call it, it’s basic human nature. We want the most stuff for the least work. Which, in this case, means that people who otherwise would never set foot in the direction of a charitable organization will instead show up and do a half-assed job of it. Maybe even quarter-assed.

They won’t care about whatever cause they are working for. All they’ll want is the tax refund, so they’ll do as little as humanly possible to qualify for it. The country will be awash in unmotivated clockwatchers, who will probably wind up doing more harm than good, and getting in the way of those who actually want to serve their communities.

I know there are those who think that once people get involved, they will find reason to do their best to aid their fellow man. Those people are wrong. You can barely get some people to do jobs they actually applied and interviewed for in their chosen career fields. People will wander the sides of roads instead of picking up the trash they were sent there after. People will work on their novels instead of answering the suicide hotline. Do you want to live in a house built by people effectively forced to be there? If so, how far behind schedule are you willing to let the project fall?

The government can’t use results-based qualifiers to determine if the volunteerism was sincere, because there will be people who are properly motivated, who want to put in the time, but who, due to circumstances, physical or mental limitations, and/or the glut of their fellow citizens, simply cannot get the job done. They’d be asking for lawsuits.

You cannot make people be nice. All you can do is annoy them, and make them resent your attempt. “Mandatory volunteerism” of any stripe is doomed to failure from the outset.


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8 Responses to “What No One’s Mentioned”

  1. Joan of Argghh! Says:
    November 8th, 2008

    I almost posted a similar idea yesterday, but the “heavy” stuff has been pretty heavy lately, so I’m glad to see it here, and see it loud.

    Now, permit me to reveal what this actually is, because I’ve worked in organizations that qualify as “community service orgs” and I can tell you, it’s no picnic when the court-ordered folks show up. It’s a pain in the ass for everyone, as you stated.

    However, the intention of this program has nothing to do with actual service. It will be another form of slavery for the young working class suburban kid who follows rules and obeys the law. For everyone else who has so expertly learned the community organizer Way, they will just walk in, get a sympathizer to sign off, and bingo! Free money. Oh, how they’ll laugh at us as they continue their private reparations program.

    How do I know this? Because of the incredulity you encounter when you tell a young person, “No, I will not sign your hours until you finish your hours. Now go back outside and keep raking.”

    We are such yokels to keep falling for this shit. We keep assuming that the Other Side is honorable.

  2. ex-dissident Says:
    November 8th, 2008

    Got a referral here from Joan of Argh. I said essentially the same thing at my site. This program’s intent is not to build, construct, or perform any needed physical service. I used some examples of how such programs functioned in the USSR, and that country was forced to import grain from USA every year due to their motivated and well trained workforce. This is purely intended as a social engineering and youth indoctrination program. Joan sees the wealth redistribution angle in her comment above. I didn’t consider it but, it makes sense. The straight playing kid being punished as she described will rethink his options and get with the program too. If there is a reward for walking around and singing praises to Obama, bashing capitalism, or reciting the new party line….that kid will become a convert. Then this legion will go into the nursing homes and preach to the elderly population. Whoever is considered vulnerable is prime target…kids, poor, sick, old.

  3. Ted Says:
    November 8th, 2008

    Folks, here is the real problem as I see it.

    Somebody that the federal government appoints and then pays will be the guy deciding which organizations are the ones that qualify under “the guidelines” as community service. Can you see the Boy Scouts of America, or the Young Republicans qualifying?

    I don’t.

    When seven percent of the closing costs on your home are GIVEN to ACORN already, due to their stellar work at educating the public and getting out the vote as community organizers? No, only the very Left “organizations” are the ones that will qualify.

    “Hey kid, you want to get cash for college? Just join up with the community watch. Don’t worry a bit about what we will be asking you to watch for, that will all be explained at the training camp this summer.”

  4. ex-dissident Says:
    November 8th, 2008

    Ted, we are all saying the same thing. This is another campaign gimmick/indoctrination/spread-the-wealth-socialism program.

  5. ex-dissident Says:
    November 8th, 2008

    BTW, nice site. I am new to blogging/posting.

  6. Mycroft Holmes Says:
    November 9th, 2008

    You can’t really argue, “This is actually indoctrination,” though, because society is conditioned to look upon people who say that sort of thing as crazy conspiracists.

    My original point was that the idea is bad on its face and can be effectively argued against based only on what the claimed purpose is.

  7. Norm Says:
    November 13th, 2008

    This is only what he wants This Year. Who’s to say what it will morph into, given say a year’s time…

  8. Drumwaster Says:
    November 14th, 2008

    Something that a lot of people forget to mention is that the government is essentially paying people $40 per hour to clean up garbage or serve soup.

    Does anyone know of a “volunteer” organization that can afford to pay people $40 per hour?

    Hell, I think the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs or the Secretary of State might make that much, but I’d have to check my math.

    It’s for dayum sho that I have never been paid that much, in some very difficult and unpleasant tasks. Ever.


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