The Voluntary Sector

“The voluntary sector differs from the state and the market in one vital respect. The state is about the production and distribution of power. The market is about the production and distribution of wealth. But power and wealth are, at any given moment, zero-sum games. If I have total power and then I share it with nine others I am left with only a tenth of what I had. If I had a thousand pounds and then share it with nine others, again I have only a tenth of the amount with which I began. Politics and economics are about competition – they are arenas of mediated conflict. But there are other goods – among them love, friendship, trust – which are different. The more I share them, the more I have. Indeed, they only exist in virtue of being shared. That is why communities, neighbourhood groups and voluntary organisations are vital to the health of society. They are not arenas of conflict, but rather the seedbeds of co-operation.”

The Power of Ideas, p. 60