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olyly94

Red Cross

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Hi, I am new to Objectivism and I have some questions about it. Would Ayn Rand have in any way objected to the American Red Cross despite it being a government charter organization? What I am asking is if that would count outside the norms of laissez-faire capitalism or not?

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Like Doug Morris, I'm unsure what you mean by "government charter". Specifically, is the Red Cross the creation of governments or does it simply cooperate with them, as it does in case of floods or earthquakes?

You're right that Rand would disapprove of either. This would not make the Red Cross unworthy of support, though, any more than government involvement in schools or roads entails that we shouldn't use them. In the US, at least, it relies largely on voluntary support. Non-coerced and non-sacrificial donation of money, goods or blood would not clash with Rand's advice.

In his Playboy interview, Milton Friedman (Objectivist-disapproved, but that's a separate topic) pointed out that the major charitable organizations - Red Cross, SPCA, Shriners, Goodwill, etc. - all date from before the age of welfare statism; what has come along since - labor unions and professional cartels - are organizations devoted to redirecting wealth from society at large toward their own members.

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The (IC of the) Red Cross is mentioned in the Geneva Conventions as an organization that has "controlling authority" in the enforcement of humanitarian law during war. It's the only organization named in that context. So they go around checking on the treatment of prisoners of war and civilians under occupation, by Geneva Conventions mandate...which is indeed a form of government charter. They visit Guantanamo Bay prisoners, for instance.

That's the only thing I can think of, that would give them government sanction. Other than that minor aspect of their work, the Red Cross is a private charity. It's not a charity I would donate to, but that's mostly because they're bloated, inefficient, and often driven by ideology I disagree with, not because they're government controlled.

Note: The history of the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions is deeply inter-twined, and the Red Cross used to fundamentally be an organization that provided care for soldiers wounded in battle or taken prisoner...and they received a lot of support from the Swiss government (and some other governments), through their early history. I don't mean to downplay any of that. I'm just talking about what the various organizations under the Red Cross umbrella are today: they're independent, private charities, involved mostly in non-political (natural or war caused) disaster relief.

Edited by Nicky

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The Red Cross does have a government "charter", see 36 USC 3001. It is "a Federally chartered instrumentality of the United States and a body corporate and politic in the District of Columbia", whose purpose is statutorily set out (giving "volunteer aid in time of war to the sick and wounded of the Armed Forces" and "to carry out a system of national and international relief in time of peace". Apart from organizational generalities, Red Cross operation is not statutorily controlled (though it is a federal crime to fraudulently pretend to be a member of the Red Cross, per 18 USC 706). It is one of a number of federally chartered organizations, see 36 USC Part B, which includes e.g. the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Chemical Society, the American Legion, Blinded Veterans Association and so on. The US signed on to the First Geneva Convention in 1882, which created the treaty obligation to have an American Red Cross.

There are three potential objections to the Red Cross from the Objectivist perspective. The first is a possible connection between funding and force: but that is not a valid objection since the Red Cross is not funded by the government. The second is that it might gain improper power to indirectly use force, for example you could imagine a situation for they could force people to give blood. Again, this is not the case. They do not have a statutory or actual monopoly on the national blood supply. It is proper for the government to decide that the ARC has its relation to the military in terms of relief efforts.

Finally there is the question of whether providing voluntary relief in case of disaster is morally skanky. Objectivism is not opposed to charity, and does not hold that all interactions between humans should be mediated by cash payments. Objectivism holds that your life is your highest value, and rejects the thesis that cash is the highest value. Objectivism also rejects the premise that you have an obligation to aid someone in need. The ARC clearly does not operate as a rational self-interest Objectivist organization, so we can assume that some morally skanky views are promulgated by individuals in the ARC. But that is not an essential fact about the ARC.

 

 

 

 

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