Ambroise Clément draws the distinction between two different kinds of charity: true voluntary charity and coerced government “charity” which is really a tax (1852)
In 2004, in the wake of the tsunamis which detroyed so many lives in south Asia, both governments and private individuals have donated funds to help in the relief work. A French classical liberal, Ambroise Clément, from the mid-19th century, ponders the difference between the two types of charitable giving:
If, however, we understand by society or the state the government, the question is changed altogether; and we must no longer ask whether charity being a virtue in the individual, is not equally a virtue in society, but whether it is proper, moral and advantageous to have charity practiced by the government, or whether it is even possible for the government to practice charity at all. We say not. It is very evident that Charity and fraternity are virtues only when they are free and spontaneous. State and, therefore, forced, charity is not a virtue, it is a tax.
We explore the consequences of the South East Asian tsunami of December 2004. There was an immediate world-wide outburst of private charitable giving, especially in the developed world. Clément in the quote explores the difference between private charitable giving and state funds taken from the tax payers and given to others.