In order to begin a discussion about the 8 x 1000 of the tax incomes to the Scientific Research.
by Adriano Autino
As it is by now well known, we fight, in our own small way, against the opaque and general purpose tax system, in which the tax payers throws their money without having a return neither a chance to check the results. Therefore we also opposite to accumulate funds for the search in a generic way, without a full publicity and transparency about the strategies and goals of the financed research and about the potential returns for the tax payer. In our conception, the tax payer is seen more and more as an investor, in a venture capital way: no ositive return guaranteed, but investing on a sufficiently wide number of initiatives to balance negative and positive results.
Far from making the pure research immediately profitable - that would mean to kill it - we think who invests his money in research should be given a chance to have a return. The return can assume various shapes, complementary or alternatives. A first form of return could be a system of royalties, much transparent and fast to constitute, assuring returns to the first one that had the idea, and then to ones that allowed the realization of the idea, addressing their investments to it.
Another way to guarantee returns to investments in research is the sponsorship. Particularly popular topics of research, like the ones in matter of terrible human healths, remedies against diseases like cancer and AIDS, or the same BSE, can be sponsored. For instance, part of the selling price of large consumption gooids can be addressed to a targeted research fund. The ensemble of the sponsored funds, plus the incoming returns from royalties on the products subsequently realized thanks to the results of the research, they would be the positive budgetary voices. Once the costs of the research will be deducted, the remaining profit could be used to pay dividends to the investors.
But a strong initiative, that could guarantee to the scientific research the necessary breath, in order to face the challenges of great difficulty and complexity of our age, is the one to institute a fund for the scientific research, allowing it to make use of the 8x1000 of the tax contribution, as currently it is, at least in Italy, for the churches. And just about the current regimen of the 8x1000, that allows its destination to some churches, we already had some critic comments: according to such comments, allowing other destinations of the 8x1000, the charity to the needy ones would be removed. I just start the discussion, therefore, answering to such comments.
In the first place it would be necessary to verify if such organizations effectively make development or charity works. The charity is a different thing, from the aid to the development: one will (sometimes) keep alive the people denying their dignity, the other stimulates and encourages the increase of the dignity of the persons. To sell the charity in exchange of the subscription to a religious creed, for instance, is something of even more dubious moral character. Unfortunately, many of the catholic missions in Africa operate in this way, not to mention the morality of the missionaries, often very morally dubious: we are talking about the testimonies of the missionaries nuns raped by missionaries priests, the testimonies of poor aboriginal girls ingenuously approaching to the mission, raped and, subsequently, thrown out of the mission as dishonourable. We are also alking about the tolerance that the catholic missions maintain for dishonourable and disumane practices, as the mutilation of the genitals of the little girls, better known as infibulation. Of course the above is not intended to be offensive toward the many honest ones that try to live the Christ Gospel, or even other religious doctrines, dedicating themselves to help the needy people. The action of the catholic church for the needy and undedeveloped people also includes cases of excellence, really helpful for the development.
Will the possibility to target the 8x1000 to the scientific research, remove the charity that keepd the poor people alive? If we answer yes it means that, if the tax payers have only the "loop-hole" of the 8x1000 to the several churches, they resign themselves to use this just not to give the 8x1000 to the government. If tomorrow they had the possibility to choose a various destination, as a scientific research fund, they would be very happy to give their contribution to such destination, taking it away from the churches. But this is a reasoning based on the coercion, rather than on the rights: it would mean that people make good actions only if they are forced to submit to "automated" mechanisms. This is completely false: people can't wait to make good actions, as it is demonstrated by the television fund collections (Telethon, Lady D., Live Aid, etc...). All the bureaucracies, trade-unions included, are based on the principle of automatic subscription, but refutation. The state, then, even does not allow the refutation: one must pay, for the single fact to exist on "its" territory. The speech must therefore be enlarged: it is the entire tax system that is based on the coercion, and does not give way to the tax payer to target the destination of the payied money. The 8x1000 is a very small opening in such system, since it gives way to the tax payers to finalize a very small part of their contribution on goals, nowadays confusedly and hopefully humanitarian, inasmuch there is no way to verify neither the consistency neither the effective use of these funds.
And there is much to discuss about strategies and validity of the actions to aid to the people of the pre-industrial countries, inasmuch as, in the best of the cases, the aid actions leave the status quo, and the cases of real help to development are very rare, and this is true both for the religious organizations and for the lay not governmental ones. The fact is that it is extremely difficult to really help people of culture very much different from our culture, and in economic conditions very much different from our economic conditions. We cannot do it, if we are not available to humbly analyze and understand their lifestyle and their culture. We cannot do it, if we take it for granted that their philosophy is, by definition, inferior to our philosophy. And such approach is very much frequent, by the ones that go in those countries with the aim to indoctrinate, before helping.
To assign the 8x1000 to a fund for the scientific and technological research would be a way in order to guarantee a greater visibility on the finalization of the tax contributions. It would result in a new freedom degree for the tax payer, and in no way it would remove rights or benefits to anyone. Helping the scientific and technological research we will help the poor people of the pre-industrial countries very much more than making charity to them or, worse, selling charity to them, in exchange of submission to religious verbos, whatever is the intrinsic ethical value of such doctrines.
The scientific research can involve the people of the pre-industrial countries, it can open schools and universities in those regions, it can supply new means of development, it can increase the possibilities of all, creating new markets and new wealth. As an example, think about the relevance of the development of the mobile telephony -- based on satellite technology -- to create an economy in poor zones, having not the possibility to have fixed telephony systems. It is worth for all the example of the network of mobile telephony put in feet by the Grameen Bank of Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh. Such network gave birth to a remarkable economic development in zones previously very under the level of survival. The research for the exploitation of the photovoltaic energy, could be a strategic resource, for regions having a great insolation, currently maintained poor, by the ones that erected barriers and aims to prevent the development of possible competitors. The research on the space photovoltaic, would be very relevant for zones of the world that cannot have electric power in other ways. The medical and alimentary research would have an enormous relevance, in order to defeat the diseases and the hunger in underdeveloped zones.
Still on the topic of the third world aid methodology of the churches, I allow myself to discuss the results of the efforts of the Catholic Church, by far the richest and powerful church that exists to the world. Since centuries the Catholic Church maintains missions in underdeveloped regions, and we have not seen any boom of the economy in those zones. To me, I would like more to give the 8x1000 to the Grameen Bank, that in few years demonstrated that it is possible to rise new economies starting from scratch, by the microcredit method. Jesuits and all the ones, good brothers, sincerely wanting to operate for the development (and not in order not to earn poor, grateful and submitted proselytes) let's go to school at Muhammad Yunus (a Muslim!), in order to learn how poor individuals can be truly helped to become entrepreneurs, and to having the possibility to honestly live of their job! We should also learn by Chiara Lubich (founder of the Christian movement of the Focolari, that, as a lay, I admire a lot), a little humility, and some ability to find and recognize the humanist principles in other religions.
If just we are worried that, giving more choices to the tax payers about the current 8x1000 it would remove something to someone, let's leave the current 8x1000 as it is -- destinabile only to the churches -- and let's institute a new additional 8x1000, allowed to be destinated to the research or to organizations or lay enterprises, working for the development of not commercial goods. In such way we would subtract another 8x1000 to the opaque and transparent fiscal cauldron, to give it to the free choice of the citizens: a sure deserving work!
[AA - TDF 2/2001 - 12/05/2001]
[The English version was revised by Ben Croxford]