Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Faith, Politics and Charity, pt. 2 - As discussed previously, there are strong correlations between a person's political perspective and their willingness to contribute charitably. Beyond the observations made by Professor Brooks, this correlation has been seen in other research. Data from an article in the May 1, 2003 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy suggests that the "blue" states of the Northeast represent the "least generous region" in America, donating approximately 2.7 percent of their discretionary incomes. In contrast, the "red" states of the West were the most generous, giving nearly 8 percent of their discretionary income.

The disparities in giving between progressives and conservatives may be explained by the simple fact that conservatism establishes that the better part of charity and compassion rest with the individual as opposed to the state. (This is why the phrase "compassionate conservatism" is a platitude of such complete vacuousness, so as to become mere double-speak, doing more to obfuscate than clarify.) Conservatives make the case that beyond being an ineffective means to provide relief to the needy, redistributive and bureaucratized assistance programs are morally corrupting.

As distinct from charity that is a product of one’s own choice, the coercive and confiscatory traits of the welfare-state have a soul-corroding effect on both the "donor" and the receiver. Because the central element of volition is removed from supposedly charitable behaviors under the welfare-state model, the habits of charity, empathy and compassion are not practiced. Both our ability and willingness to donate to others atrophy from lack of use, and the moral component of our humanity is diminished as a consequence.

This phenomenon is evidenced by the fact that in contrast to most of the socialist states of Europe, rates of charitable giving are extremely high the United States, particularly international aid. A new report from the Charities Aid Foundation concludes that the U.S. "
is the most generous in donating an average of 1.7 percent [of GDP] each year
," with Britain averaging 0.7 percent and Germany and France contributing 0.22 percent and 0.14 percent respectively. And according to the Hudson Institute’s 2006 Index of Global Philanthropy, in 2004, Americans gave a combined total of $71 billion in non-governmental charitable assistance to the developing world. This private aid was over and above the $19.7 billion provided by the U.S. government that same year.

As we recount the commentary of Professor Brooks that "there may be nothing inherently charitable about political conservatism," based upon all of the available data, it does appear that there is something specific to life in a "welfare state" - be it in the U.S. or elsewhere - that diminishes a person’s generosity of spirit.

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