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Mar 31, 2008

Charity Begins at Home

With the U.S. Presidential race in full swing, liberals and conservatives are busy trying to characterize one another with unflattering stereotypes. One stereotype that is often used against conservatives is that they're not concerned about the less fortunate in society. Conservatives respond that they are concerned about the poor, but that large government programs are not the most effective way to fight poverty. Conservatives say that such programs undermine the sense of personal responsibility that is necessary for poor people to advance in society, and actually encourage destructive behavior that perpetuates poverty. They claim that voluntary, community-based charitable activities, especially faith-based activities, are much more effective means of fighting social ills. Is this just a convenient excuse to avoid funding government social programs? Some liberals say that "Compassionate Conservatism" is a contradiction in terms.

Recent evidence suggests that conservatives practice what they preach. Conservatives households give 30% more to charity than do liberal households, in spite of the fact that income in liberal households is 6% higher on average than in conservative households. Conservative households are 18% more likely to donate blood than liberal households, and volunteer significantly more of their time to charitable activities.

None of this suggests that either conservatives or liberals are right about their policy prescriptions. Nor does it suggest that conservatives are better people than liberals, or that liberals are not charitable. It merely suggests that the so-called "stinginess" of conservatives on social programs may be motivated by a genuine, good faith difference in philosophy from liberals, rather than by hostility to the poor. It also suggests that debates on how to address poverty in America should be focused on the issues, rather than on attacking people's motives.

Just something to think about in case there is any time in between all of the name-calling during the upcoming election season.

21 comments:

lil_hammerhead said...

You have to remember though.. conservatives believe that the poor, the destitute, youth programs, child care, and any number of social and health programs, should be solely the work of charities.. not assisted through public funding.

That being said, they do not give nearly enough to cover all of the needed programs through charity.

I say, they should put their money where their mouthes are. If you think childcare, and low-income housing, and foodstamps, and childrens' health clinics, and couseling services, and youth centers, and after-school programs, etc. should be operated through charity.. give 90% of your paycheck.

I would go further and say.. if you are a blowhard conservative, who spouts off about "planned parenthood", or "pro-life".. then you better have some adopted children living in your home. If not.. pipe down.

lil_hammerhead said...

What study are you citing by the way?

I'd venture to say that the "conservatives donating more of their time" is questionable. Donating time at their church maybe.. but where else?

HBM said...

The study was documented in the book Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism by Syracuse University Professor Arthur Brooks (2006). It is a thoroughly documented study that has not been seriously challenged in the year or so that it has been out, and it is consistent with past studies. Conservatives, like liberals, tend to believe in the need for a government safety net; they don't believe that all social services should be voluntary. They are less likely, however, to believe that they've done their moral duty by simply supporting government social programs that are funded through taxing everyone else. There is plenty of room for reasonable, caring people to debate the appropriate mix of government and private assistance for the poor. My only problem is with people who believe that they are morally superior simply because they're in favor of more funding for social programs with other people's money. Their positions may be right or they may be wrong, but they should not assume that they are automatically morally superior to those with whom they disagree. It is not just conservatives who should put their money where their mouths are; it is all of us. If conservatives give significantly more to charity (at all income levels, by the way), that doesn't necessarily mean that their policy approach is the right one--but they should be commended for their generosity.

HBM said...

The study was documented in the book Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism by Syracuse University Professor Arthur Brooks (2006). It is a thoroughly documented study that has not been seriously challenged in the year or so that it has been out, and it is consistent with past studies. Conservatives, like liberals, tend to believe in the need for a government safety net; they don't believe that all social services should be voluntary. They are less likely, however, to believe that they've done their moral duty by simply supporting government social programs that are funded through taxing everyone else. There is plenty of room for reasonable, caring people to debate the appropriate mix of government and private assistance for the poor. My only problem is with people who believe that they are morally superior simply because they're in favor of more funding for social programs with other people's money. Their positions may be right or they may be wrong, but they should not assume that they are automatically morally superior to those with whom they disagree. It is not just conservatives who should put their money where their mouths are; it is all of us. If conservatives give significantly more to charity (at all income levels, by the way), that doesn't necessarily mean that their policy approach is the right one--but they should be commended for their generosity.

HBM said...

Those last two comments are courtesy of the Department of Redundancy Department.

lil_hammerhead said...

Nonsense HBM.. Conservatives, at least not the ones I've been exposed to over my lifetime, are not proponents of "social safety nets".

I'll personally research a bit more the study itself.

"They are less likely to believe they've done their duty, by simply supporting government social programs that are supported through taxpayer dollars" ?

:)Laughable.. How many upper middle class or "wealthy" white conservative families do you know, who adopt non-white babies who are the product of teenage mothers with drug problems?

Anonymous said...

Vote for Obama!

HBM said...

Lil,

The term "safety net" was coined by Ronald Reagan, and he supported them. Here's one example of an upper middle class white conservative who adopted a sick non-white baby from an orphanage: John McCain. No disrespect intended, but perhaps your phrase about conservatives that you've been "exposed to" is the key here. If you don't have a lot of meaningful personal contact with people with different points of view, it's easy to reduce those people and their views to a mere caricature. It makes some people (not necessarily you, but definitely many that I've encountered) feel good to feel superior to people with whom they disagree, but it's more worthwhile to try to understand where they're coming from and discover unexpected common ground.

lil_hammerhead said...

Conservatives can "coin" social programs any way they want.. doesn't mean they support them. In fact, at every instance, they try to curtail them, and readily use them as some sort of odd ammunition against Democrats.

Exposed to means: Conservatives I've known (alot) and Conservatives who fill the airwaves (alot)

Anonymous said...

What constitutes a "charity" for purposes of these findings? Do "Swiftboaters For Truth" have a 501(c)(3)?

kelly said...

The republicans have no qualm pumping trillions of dollars into a meaningless war, but have cut after-school programs significantly under this administration. They fight tooth and nail against affordable health-care and universal health-care, against price-controls for medicines, and against health-care initiatives for children in poverty.

Anonymous said...

do you know what R stands for with singer R Kelly? It's "Republican" Kelly.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I see. All conservatives are evil and liberals have a monopoly on virtue. Thanks for clearing that up.

lil_hammerhead said...

No, all conservatives aren't "evil". But they aren't generally in support of social/welfare programs. To suggest so is simply false.

Anonymous said...

And many are pretty evil.

Anonymous said...

And many liberals are malignant narcissists who could give a damn about the consequences of their poorly thought out policies, as long as they can feel good about themselves.

Anonymous said...

It's much better thought out to do everything possible to make sure 5 percent of the population owns all the wealth. Everyone eating is so narcissistic.

Anonymous said...

You're right. Communism is the answer. Oh wait, they tried that....

CNMI/Mainland Republican & Catholic said...

Lil, you argue that only those who have adopted children, such as John McCain, have the right to participate in debates about the best way to alleviate child poverty or the so-called right to choose.

So my sister, whose youngest is adopted, and my uncle & auntie (both kids adopted) can express their views but I can't chime in? So a priest who grew up in a happy home (whose parents are still together), has heard thousands of confessions, and may even have formal studies is unqualified to provide marriage counseling, or advice on responsible sexuality?

Using this "logic," only service members and veterans could comment on wars, only current and former federal employees (or INS/DHS folks) could opine on the federal takeover, and only legislators would have standing to address each other.

In fact, through education and experience, each of us has knowledge we can and should share with others. That's what builds civilizations. If each of us had to personally make all the mistakes of our forebearers, we'd all still be in the stone age.

Is that the reason for your avatar? (!)

:)

Anonymous said...

And we tried the Robber Baron Era, which is rising again like a Phoenix under Republican rule. The only thing that stops corporations from using child labor again is that they can't get away with it.

Anonymous said...

Right, right, we get it. Conservatives stand for child labor, and liberal stand for everything that is good. Except when it comes into reaching into their own pockets and putting their money where their mouths are. On that score, conservatives with less money give more than liberal with more money. But that's just a minor exception to the rule that all of us are perfect and all of them are evil. Whatever you need to feel good about yourself, because after all, that's all that really matters.

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