Everyone Wants More

Like most people, I do try to be charitable, both in attitude and in making an effort to give something to organizations whose charitable purposes with which I agree. But I’ve noticed a change in almost all of them over the past five to ten years. Now, it seems, as soon as I contribute, not only do I get a thank you, but another plea for more money, and another… and before long, another. Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, but repaying my charitable efforts with more and more demands for contributions tends to make me less charitable, not more… and I find myself more willing to contribute to groups that don’t press me and less willing to give to those who do.

It’s not just charities. It’s everywhere. The U.S. air transport and aerospace industries are investing less and less in research and development and spending more and more on share buybacks and dividends. Airline profits are up, thanks to all the extra fees and charges levied on travelers. This trend is sweeping business, as I’ve noted before. Not only that, but now business after business wants the consumer to do their market research for them, by asking for customer feedback on everything from banking services to lodging, consumer products, transportation, automobiles, and who knows what else. Company after company wants me to go paperless, but I can’t go paperless for many because the IRS likes paper receipts and documentation, and if I go paperless, I’m the one who has to take the time and paper to print out all those receipts and documents.

Our state electric utility now wants to charge customers who use solar and wind power – because their use of less electricity will impact the utility. Politicians want more and more contributions for their re-election, and, in turn, business lobbyists want more and legislative favors for those contributions.

Students coming to universities not only want scholarships and more financial aid, but they also want better grades for less effort, and unhappily, due to the fact that most universities had bought into using student evaluations as part of the formula for determining faculty raises and retention, they’re getting higher grades for less effort. Of course, fewer of them are being taught by full-time experienced faculty.

All too many readers want books that are cheaper and cheaper – if not free – and I’ve had more than a few readers complain that the prices of my books are too high. Yet, given inflation, and market pressures, most publishers are making less per book, in real dollar terms, than they were ten or fifteen years ago, and that goes for almost all authors as well.

In ways large and small, almost everyone is being asked to do more, give more, spend more, do more of businesses’ work. Is it any wonder many people are less charitable in thought and deed?

10 thoughts on “Everyone Wants More”

  1. Frank says:

    On being charitable: I agree with the irritation part and have found only one “fool proof” method to donate without it: donate anonymously. It may restrict to whom you can direct your donations, but it does preclude the follow-up pleas.

    On businesses wanting more for less: I agree, again, but I think that we consumers have some responsibility with this. Are we willing to forgo air travel if it becomes too expensive and/or the benefits too sparse? Are we willing to change schedule to (for instance) take South West Air since it does not charge extra for a bag or two (and has one of the best on time and safety records)? It is within our power as consumers to demand what we want and then wait and see if it can be accommodated by business.

    Solar and wind power are interesting subjects, in much the same way as mass transit. Good ideas, all, but, are any of them financially viable without the benefit of a large infrastructure and economies of scale? Working in the public sector, on infrastructure, I can tell you that for the most part the answer is: no. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, but I think we have to be truthful with the public and ourselves, if we do these things in hopes of creating the infrastructure and scale necessary to make it feasible…OK. If we try and “sell it” as an economic boon…in my view we are trying to fool someone and/or ourselves.

    Books: I don’t know nearly as much about the publishing business as you (LEM) do. I defer to your analysis of the economy of same. I would say, however, that I think we as Americans are very lucky that anyone with a library card and some patience can read almost anything they want for free, though not necessarily when they want.

    I submit that most or all of the things you point out are in some way the effects of the population growing too fast. From none renewable fuels and resources, to pollution and problems with transit, what a different world it would be if the population was the size of 50 years (or more) ago. This is ultimately controllable by our species, but since it involves “Religious Freedom” it is not frequently brought into the conversation…the silence of which seems, at times, deafening.

  2. P W Paul says:

    Interesting that the BBC features a story on charities and their pressures on a pensioner today. The family stress she had additional worries, but this elderly lady was receiving in excess of 100 letters and additional phone calls each month.

  3. Wine Guy says:

    It is hard to fight human nature, especially when it is embodied within corporations and governments. There is a subtle – or not so subtle – undercurrent these days of ‘If someone else has something and I don’t, I should take it from them’ instead of “I should work to be able to afford it, too.’

  4. Tim says:

    The BBC article PW Paul refers to can be found at


    A sorry tale and one I have heard before – especially in requests for bequests from the elderly. Charities in the UK can also be as bad as the cold-callers in their persistence once they have your name and address. I have also found that charity collectors can be quite aggressive in support of their cause.

    I now only give to charity in exceptional cases.

  5. Tim says:

    An addendum to my previous post.

    the UK PM has taken a view on this at


    Maybe charity pressure will actually be regulated in the future, as much else is.


  6. R. Hamilton. says:

    Perhaps the huge sum of debt (government as well as private), and economic uncertainty, as well as the downloader generation, are all squeezing enough people and businesses, or giving the perception of a squeeze to come. People may want the immediate gratification of debt (or free content), but can’t entirely escape the feeling that consequences can’t be deferred indefinitely.

    Successful small businesses know their customers individually – they don’t need surveys. I’m recognized at four non-chain restaurants, and a dry cleaner; they know what I want, and that I’ll be generous and non-obstreperous. Larger businesses, where customers and junior employees are not really treated as individuals, will tend to use other means, esp. since the monetization of information is probably oversold by those providing such software and services; valid and useful collection and analysis probably being more difficult than is represented, to correctly design and conduct. And actually knowing customers takes more skilled employees, and can’t be outsourced like data collection software.

    IMO, it’s not all bad. I don’t hate Amazon’s suggested items based on order history. They have the info anyway, so it’s not particularly intrusive; and even if it rarely causes me to purchase, at least it informs me of products that may have some common interest with those I have purchased.

  7. Jeff says:

    Here’s another, the discussion about taxing electrical cars because they don’t pay gas taxes and therefore fund roads… But does everyone pay their fair share of road tax? Does the truck hauling tons pay the true cost of its wear and tear when compared to a vehicle that weighs significantly less and has less impact?

    1. D Archerd says:

      In the few states where trucks are tariffed by their weight per axle rather than the number of axles, yes, they do pay their share based on the wear and tear on the road.

  8. Joe says:

    It’s called productivity increases. It’s supposed to be a benefit of capitalism. But it often results in shoddy cheap products, or in little real choice.

  9. Wine Guy says:

    @Tim: yes, it’s similar in the US. Heaven forbid I donate to just one charity these days… turns out that some charities make money by selling their mailing lists to other charities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *