Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

27 March 2008

Charity Stronger Among Republicans

George Will, in a commentary called Conservatives More Liberal Givers, discusses a book by Professor Authur C. Brooks of Syracuse University entitled Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism. This author may have been surprised by his results, but I have long argued that this appeared to be the case. Some key findings were:
  • Conservative-headed households gave 30% more to charity than liberal families, despite the fact that liberal families had incomes 6% higher.
  • Conservatives donate more blood and more time to charities.
  • Bush carried 24 of 25 states against Kerry where charitable giving was above average.
  • Those who reject the idea that government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality, give 4 times more to charity than those who agree with that idea.
The article then goes into a discussion of the influence of religion and the role of government and how this affects people's charitable giving. On the issue of the role of government, I have long argued that the most people's attitude about that comes from an examination of themselves. It is their own character which is projected onto others or their desire for power that drives them into believing either in a limited role for government or for a broad and activist role for government. Consequently, while a strong correlation with charitable giving exists, the cause and the effect have been interchanged in the discussion in Will's commentary.

Essentially, most conservatives believe in individual rights and that individuals are generally capable of managing their own lives and choosing their own values. They believe that a man can live in liberty and pursue his own happiness without using force to wrest what he wants from his neighbor. He believes that with hard work, rational thinking, and the right values, he will likely be able to define and secure his own happiness. Admittedly, there are some conservatives also who have a low opinion of many of their fellow men, but they are a minority.

Liberals are more bifurcated. Most believe that many of their fellow men are not capable of managing their own lives rationally. Interestingly enough, even though they are better educated and wealthier on average, they have a rather low opinion of themselves. They are rather appalled that they have such materialistic values and feel guilty for their wealth. Some feel guilty because they believe they are the oppressors who hold the poor in subjugation. Some actually feel guilt for using the power of government to shift wealth from others to themselves. Some feel guilty because they have such a low opinion of so many others, which is something that those with a low opinion of themselves are inclined toward. It makes them feel that they are better in comparison. They are especially inclined to have a low opinion of blacks and Hispanics, because they view them as such helpless victims. Those who accept victimhood and those who project it upon others are the worst racists.

Yet despite all this guilt, they are not inclined toward personal acts of charity and this conflicts with their conviction that they should feel more maternally for the many they think are not able to adequately care for themselves. They see many of their neighbors, or at least those living in the poorer neighborhoods, as victims and as helpless. So how do they resolve this conflict between having materialistic values and feeling guilty for doing so little to help the many victims they see around them? Well, they toss this burden onto everyone's shoulders by claiming it is the role of government to care for the needy and the victims. Of course, there are also some liberals who love being victims and using that to put a claim on the products of the hard work of others and using it as an excuse for not having proven to be very productive members of society.

Those in favor of maternalistic government feel very good about themselves, even as they put zoning requirements in place that make it difficult for the poorer folks to own decent homes and as they slap high taxes on gasoline to make it harder for the poorer folks to get to work or to take vacations. Yes they love themselves for being enlightened liberals even as they use eminent domain to take the apartments of the poor and turn them into upscale shopping malls or apartments. They feel the cheap thrill of giving the poor a living wage, even as the minimum wages prices those with poor educations and no work experience out of the market. They love themselves even more as they boost the cost of cars with requirements for higher fuel efficiency and more safety features. They feel so morally superior as they use the force of government to maintain the social security system to transfer wealth from the young to the old, who are usually actually wealthier, despite the popular mythology. They bask in their own sunlight as they dictate to health care professionals how they will deliver health care to those on Medicare. They buy carbon credits as the poor do without energy or pay much more for it than they should in the name of preventing greenhouse gas emissions.

It makes them feel great that they can use their vote, rather more than their own money or time, to alleviate their guilt. It is also very important to them that with their maternalistic or paternalistic desires, they also become the intellectual and caring elite who set the direction of government programs. Since they already suffer from a low self-esteem and have a generally low opinion of others, when they are put in charge of government programs, they find myriad ways to direct the money to other liberals who are already well-off. But little actually goes to those the laws intend it to go to. See for instance the huge sums that go into the Washington, DC public schools for the education of children and how ineffectively the money is used. Or see how effective the huge sums of money directed at government programs for the development of alternative energy sources have been. See how many liberals favor high taxes, but prove to be the best at using deductions so they pay little of the taxes. Isn't it incongruous that those who favor high taxes should be so diligent in seeking to reduce their own tax payments?

The conservative is more likely to have a core respect for other humans and to believe that when someone is briefly down in their luck, that they are worthy of help. But they do not believe in helping people who are chronically down on their luck. They are inclined to believe that that is likely to be due to a defect of character, unless their is a severe illness. The defects of another's character are not their responsibility. Thus, they reject the idea that every black or Hispanic or poor person deserves special help. No, they, like everyone else, are capable of managing their own lives. They deserve to be treated equally before the law, but they are not to be given special condescending privileges. It is reasonable to expect them to think for themselves and to work as hard as anyone else. This expectation is the foundation of the respect for others that limited government presupposes. The conservative does not boost his own self-esteem by looking down on others. He also does not wallow in envy of others.

The modern progressive or liberal is a person of a different character from most conservatives and it is not at all surprising how this relates to how they assess others and any charitable relationships they may have. The conservative gives of himself and does not presume to use force to take from others and then claim that as his act of charity. Unfortunately, the fascist liberals do just that. Charity does not really consist of stealing from some to give the stolen goods to others one does not respect. Charity is the act of voluntarily helping someone that one has reason to believe is worthy of respect as a human being. It is an act directed at those we believe to share our fundamental value of life itself. One cannot share that value if one does not generally use one's rational faculty to identify the nature of reality and one's relationship with it. Man must act purposefully to achieve the value of his life, his liberty, and his pursuit of happiness. When he does these things, he is worthy of respect and worthy of our help when he suffers one of the set-backs that life can bring on unexpectedly. Of course, most such set-backs are handled by the rational individual by himself, but some we can all understand can be overwhelming and we may choose to help when we can. This is a matter of personal choice, however, and not a universal dictate to be imposed by government wielding a gun, as the liberals would have it.

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