British economist Chris Dillow cites a paper studying the relative altruism of those working in the non-profit and for-profit sector, published by the Centre for Market and Public Organization . Probably not surprising to a leftist – or, well, most people quite honestly – it finds that those in the for-profit sector were less likely to engage in “helpful behavior intended to benefit other people unmotivated by professional obligations.” Dillow says this is a smack in the face, of sorts, to the neoliberal economists who posit unabashed self interest on the part of government agents. He writes:
This suggests that what Julian Le Grand called “knightly motives” are significantly more common in the public sector – because people with a strong sense of vocation are likely to avoid working for someone else’s profit.
But a sharp commenter by the name of “ad” notes, just as I begin to suspect, that Dillow forgot to mention that the paper looks at non-profit organizations in general, not just those of the government. In which case Arnold Kling’s self designation of “civil societarian” gets a nod.
As a critique of the Virginia School’s assumption of self interest on the part of state agents everywhere and always, I’m in full agreement – and in any case have been suspicious of that assertion for some time anyway – but by neglecting the fact that civil society (what Rothbard refers to as the free market, period) includes an abundance of non-profit institutions, no “point” has been scored for the pro-government crowd, overall. (Half a point for keeping the cliche’d libertarian talking point in check, however.)
But don’t get the wrong impression about Chris Dillow. He’s actually quite the friend of libertarians for the most part, at least from what I’ve read.
Let us not forget that by crowding out the voluntary sector, it’s not particularly surprising that the state would then “soak up” the altruistic types.