Cover of "Who Really Cares: The Surprisin...

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Devastation in Japan

As in the past, the U.S. government and many of its private citizens will provide massive amounts of aid to the Japanese.   This is a good thing.  Other countries  and their people will also join in the effort.  And make no mistake, the effort will be HUGE.

There are very few who would disagree with the idea that we should all help each other in times of need, especially catastrophic need.

Unfortunately, giving to help the unfortunate, charity, aid has become characterized as “giving back.”

You see it all the time.  Someone attains a measure of success, they start a foundation or some such thing, and say they are motivated from some sense to “give back.”   UGH.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the wash of gratitude any one can experience for achieving success.  And certainly a humble,  grateful attitude is more acceptable than egotistical arrogance.   However, I think it demeans a person’s charitable nature to characterize his generosity and gratitude as a “giving back.”

Most successful people have endured great sacrifice and risk to get to where they are.  Particularly entrepreneurs, often mortgaging homes, risking retirement funds, borrowing from family and friends and doing without for years.  There is no guarantee of  success and MANY DO FAIL!   Who “gives back to them?”  For that matter, who gives back to a man or woman who in the face great loss, somehow make a going concern of just an idea, and consequently end up employing a few, dozens or even more people.?

I know of many business owners who in tight times, have a spouse work for no paycheck, so others can maintain their jobs.  Who gives back to them?

In the progressive,  liberal mind, success is an accident, just luck.  So the “lucky” business person is really no more entitled to the fruits of his/her labor and risk than a gambler in Las Vegas.   So, he/she should be very willing to “give back,” meaning pay high taxes.  It’s really a very distorted view of reality, based only in bias, envy and maybe even disdain for actual accomplishment.

So here’s the real twist.  Who in fact gives “back” more?   Below I have quoted an article from “Real Clear Politics” about that very subject.  Don’t be surprised at what you read.

“Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.” The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives.

If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:

— Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

— Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

— Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

— Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

— In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

— People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

Brooks demonstrates a correlation between charitable behavior and “the values that lie beneath” liberal and conservative labels. Two influences on charitable behavior are religion and attitudes about the proper role of government.

The single biggest predictor of someone’s altruism, Willett says, is religion. It increasingly correlates with conservative political affiliations because, as Brooks’ book says, “the percentage of self-described Democrats who say they have ‘no religion’ has more than quadrupled since the early 1970s.” America is largely divided between religious givers and secular nongivers, and the former are disproportionately conservative. One demonstration that religion is a strong determinant of charitable behavior is that the leastcharitable cohort is a relatively small one — secular conservatives.

Reviewing Brooks’ book in the Texas Review of Law & Politics, Justice Willett notes that Austin — it voted 56 percent for Kerry while he was getting just 38 percent statewide — is ranked by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as 48th out of America’s 50 largest cities in per capita charitable giving. Brooks’ data about disparities between liberals’ and conservatives’ charitable giving fit these facts: Democrats represent a majority of the wealthiest congressional districts, and half of America’s richest households live in states where both senators are Democrats.

While conservatives tend to regard giving as a personal rather than governmental responsibility, some liberals consider private charity a retrograde phenomenon — a poor palliative for an inadequate welfare state, and a distraction from achieving adequacy by force, by increasing taxes. Ralph Nader, running for president in 2000, said: “A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity.” Brooks, however, warns: “If support for a policy that does not exist … substitutes for private charity, the needy are left worse off than before. It is one of the bitterest ironies of liberal politics today that political opinions are apparently taking the place of help for others.”

In 2000, brows were furrowed in perplexity because Vice President Al Gore‘s charitable contributions, as a percentage of his income, were below the national average: He gave 0.2 percent of his family income, one-seventh of the average for donating households. But Gore “gave at the office.” By using public office to give other peoples’ money to government programs, he was being charitable, as liberals increasingly, and conveniently, understand that word.”

georgewill@washpost.com

Copyright 2008, Washington Post Writers Group


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