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Charity Vouchers: Decentralizing Public Spending

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People sometimes object to the charitable tax deduction on grounds that it is "undemocratic", incentivizing wealthy individuals to exert philanthropic influence instead of filling the public purse. On the other hand, well-targeted philanthropy surely achieves more good than paying extra to the government (which may just go to paying down the public debt, funding unnecessary wars, military parades for the Great Patriotic Leader, corporate welfare, and tax breaks for the wealthy).  If choosing where best to donate your money, "the US government" would seem an unlikely answer.  We recognize that charities could use extra funds more effectively. So it seems worth exploring ways to boost the philanthropic sector whilst avoiding the potential downside of concentrating power in the hands of the ultra-wealthy. The obvious solution: charity vouchers.Charity vouchers would be a bit like basic income, but only usable for donations to eligible charitable organizations. Every citizen would receive charity vouchers (e.g. $1000 per month), to decentralize public spending and social responsibility.  To overcome collective action problems and benefit from economies of scale, individuals could choose to transfer their vouchers to a trusted 'meta' organization (like GiveWell) to disburse on their behalf.Like basic income, charity vouchers nicely separate the issues of "redistribution" and "size of government". They're the sort of thing that small-government "compassionate conservatives", if any still exist in this age of Trump, clearly ought to support.  The democratic left should like the redistribution of influence, empowering ordinary citizens to shape public spending, thereby making use of the local knowledge and values of diverse communities.  Market liberals will laud the efficiency gains of making trade-offs transparent: money spent on one cause is not available for another, and making this more salient may help to reduce wasteful spending. . .

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