Monday, February 8, 2010


The Race Against Government

In this article I was trying to go for a saucy new take on things we all take for granted, but I suppose it's possible it would convince many people that economists are jerks:
I have similar misgivings about the way my school got us kids to raise money when I was growing up. I went to a Catholic grammar school that had annual marathons. So I was a little kid going door-to-door in my neighborhood and asking people to pledge a certain amount of money for each lap I walked around the school. (Some donors would be tough guys about it, asking me how long the laps were and sizing me up like I was a racehorse.)

In my high school, we had candy and magazine drives, where we again went door-to-door and guilt-tripped people into buying stuff they didn't want. We didn't get to keep a cut of the proceeds, of course, but the school would give out prizes to motivate us. It was always ridiculous because this one kid would get his parents to get orders at their jobs, so you never had a chance of beating him. I bet Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine owed half its subscriptions to that kid.

Of course, there are adult analogs of these things. For example people raise money for cancer research by "Walking for a Cure" and so forth. Please note, I am not criticizing the people who participate in these activities. I understand that they are social events, and you raise more money than if you simply went around to your coworkers with a hat. But my point is, isn't there a way we could tap into people's philanthropic side without doing something intrinsically useless, like having a bunch of fourth graders walk around the school parking lot eight times, or asking people to spend money on candy or magazines they don't really want?

yes.... like raffles or casino nights, or other "entertainment" venues....presumably the workers are offering something of value vs just walking around the school..
there are plenty of fat kids who should walk around the school grounds
When you say 'grammar school', is that a fancy way of saying elementary school; or did you actually go to a school where they focused on languages?

If the latter, which can you speak?
3rd anon, we called it "grammar school." That's what I grew up thinking K-8th grade was called.

I studied French but did not absorb it.
Bob, I really enjoyed your article yesterday on M.O. As a 12 year Catholic school kid, I am well aware of most $ generating schemes. At my high school the biggest week of the year was not Homecoming or Prom, it was Activity Week. In addition to all the door to door and parents' offices guilt trips, we had actual child labor "volunteerism". Guess which made more money for the school: citrus sales or prevailing undocumented immigrant labor rate leaf raking? This $ allowed me to avoid having a sewn on belt on my basketball shorts in 1990. Now they have a lucrative gambling (bingo) operation and the freshman team has home/road warm up suits every year and only rare instances of hand me downs. The school's grad rate? >95%. College attendance after grad? >90%. Average ACT? >26. And usually at least one athletic title a year. So it's just a matter of time until the State shuts it down.
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