Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Whose job is it anyway?

Well, you know the answer to this one, of course. There's a quiz coming, but you're gonna ace it.

The answer is: it's your mom's job. You were right. That's the answer. Just like when we were kids and there was some problem, the clothes weren't clean or the fridge was empty. "Mom! Fix the problem!" Yep, it's Mom's job. For some folks it might be Dad's job. But between the two of them, Mom and Dad, they better get busy because the world has got some problems and it's high time that those problems were fixed.

Granted, some will be dissatisfied with this answer. For example, some folks have lost their moms and dads; my own mom and dad are both gone. Furthermore, I've got kids. Are they supposed to be pushing this on their mom and dad? Hmm. Okay, here's my position on that: Moms, yes; Dads, no. Clear? Still not satisfied?

Maybe we should assign the problem to politicians. They are, as we know, all powerful and omniscient. Or perhaps it's those other people in other countries who really own the solution. (This is a wee bit disturbing that the industrialized West would consider such a thing.) Better yet, it's the UN's assignment, since they control everything. If only they weren't corrupt. Or it's the big businesses, that's who it is! The Exxons and the Daimlers and the ADMs of the world! Or it's the philanthropists, Bill and Warren, they're in charge and will sort it out.

Sigh. None of these answers are very satisfactory. And we've exhausted all the answers, right?

Well, no, we didn't exhaust the list. And one answer was close: Bill and Warren. That answer is close because those individuals are acting on their own behalf. They are not beholden to anyone else, such as shareholders or electorate or member nations. They can take certain matters into their own hands, and make a difference. Because they believe it is worth some sacrifice on their parts. Sure, they can maybe squeak by on the crumbs that are left over. But which of us are so squeezed that we could not sacrifice some tiny fraction of our time or financial wherewithal to make a difference? As a point of reference, a single percent (1%) of US GDP in 2005 alone would have been over $120B. The actual Official Development Assistance for the US in 2005 was 0.22%, or about $27.5B. That's rather less than Warren Buffett's bulk gift, though that will be spent over time. (It's also bit less than 1/3 of the 0.7% of GNP that each industrialized nation has agreed, more than once, to deliver.)

Now, of course, we can all say, with some fair justification, "hey, we gave at the office!" That is, our taxes, withheld from our take-home pay, is supposed to cover these things! Well, yes, true enough. And it highlights the problems with relying on the government to solve these problems when the voters want other things. Separately, we could also argue that we don't feel like we're getting 1/3 of the problem solved with the 1/3 of 0.7% that we're spending. And that highlights the problem that simply throwing money at the problem doesn't necessarily work. Of course, we're not just "throwing money," are we?

So here is the quiz: Whose job is it?
Here is the answer: Ours.

Alright, here's your sermon homework:
Please grade your own quizzes. Submit quizzes and homework to the comment section of this blog by next Monday.


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