Why We Do Better

Providing the best public services isn’t just about deploying more resources: it’s about deploying our resources in the most effective way.

We Do Better is about identifying those people, organizations and methods that provide the best and most accessible public services, and enabling communities to direct resources with the goal of improving human outcomes.

The “We” of We Do Better is all of us: it’s the “We” in We the People.

 

Americans freely come together in many kinds of groups to serve each other.

Indeed, throughout the Western world, almost all human needs are met through a myriad of transactions voluntarily made by individuals, often in groups, and usually for mutual, but not always material, benefit.

A trip to the farmers market provides a simple example: you want apples more than you want the money you use to buy them, and the farmer wants your money more than the apples. Both of you benefit from the exchange of money for apples – and so both of you naturally say “thank you” to the other after it is made.

The power and beauty of such exchanges lie in the fact that they only happen if both people benefit. Over time, millions of such free exchanges build civilization and are responsible for most of our welfare. For example, they are responsible for the production and supply of food, clothes, electrical power, our homes, transportation, medical treatments, and most modern forms of communication – all public services on which we depend.

Our society includes various entities that are formed to meet human needs through this mechanism. They include non-government organizations, mutual societies, companies, and informal groups.

 

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

NGOs provide all manner of social services, such as homeless shelters, support for abused children, food or medical care for the poor, psychological support for addicts and so on.

An NGO is a corporation whose shareholders do not make profits and that measures its success in terms of a benefit to the community. The choice to give money to a charity or non-government organization is entirely voluntary and both the giver and the NGO benefit. Clearly, the NGO benefits from donations, which it spends to do good in the community. Although the giver does not often gain materially, she gains something even more valuable than the money she gives – a benefit that could be described as spiritual, emotional or just human. As Shakespeare said, giving is “twice blessed”.

In many areas where private charity operates with the same purpose as a government program, the charity does more good for less money.

There is a simple reason for that: if a charity stops doing the good it claims to do, then its donors can cease to support it. In other words, the choice of how to spend one’s money turns good intentions into even better outcomes.

Co-ops and mutual societies

Whereas an NGO receives donations from some people, which it uses to the benefit of others, a mutual society or co-op involves multiple people coming together for their collective benefit. Members of a co-op put funds into a pot when they can afford to, so as to be able to take them out when they need to.

Accordingly, these organizations provide a kind of insurance – and, on top of that, allow the members to benefit further from any profits.

Because those who benefit from a co-op’s resources provided those resources in the first place, everyone involved has an incentive to ensure there is no waste, and only policies that really serve the members can be implemented. Moreover, the natural self-policing of such an organization mitigates against abuse.

For-profit corporations

The overwhelming majority of the products and services that Americans require are provided by for-profit corporations, which directly provide a needed product or service for money. Like the farmer at the farmers market, a company must provide value to customers to make a profit, so its interests are aligned with those of the people that it serves. Some companies, like supermarkets, utility companies, and transportation companies, support the basic welfare of millions of Americans.

Since profit-making corporations must compete with others who can take their business by offering the same or better product for the same price or less, they have an incentive to meet the public’s needs more effectively and more affordably over time, and even to find ways to meet needs that are not met by anyone else.

Informal organizations of individuals

Modern technology allows individuals with a common interest to organize and raise resources for various purposes.

Crowd-funding sites are increasingly used to fund causes and creative ways of meeting human needs; social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, have been used with huge success to respond to crises. For example, Louisiana’s “Cajun Navy”, organized through a Facebook group, is an informal organization of boat-owning citizens who rescue victims of the floods that frequently strike the state. There are many like it.

The above types of organizations represent various ways people come together to serve themselves and each other. To promote wellbeing in our communities, we need to be aware of all of them so that we can use those that provide the best human outcomes in each area of public services.

Doing the Most Good

We Do Better is morally committed to better human outcomes – not ideologically committed to a particular method of achieving them.

Accordingly, we support and strengthen those who rely on public services by supporting and strengthening those who Do Better in providing them.

In every case, when it comes to public services, we have a moral responsibility to do the most good with every dollar spent.

Let us start measuring our compassion not by the strength of our good intentions, the efforts we make or even the money we spend – but by the good that we do for each other.