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November 29, 2006

Put your money where your mouth is

Thomas Sowell remarks on Arthur Brooks's new book Who Really Cares? about whether conservatives or liberals give more of their money, time, and talents to charitable causes:

People who identify themselves as conservatives donate money to charity more often than people who identify themselves as liberals. They donate more money and a higher percentage of their incomes.

It is not that conservatives have more money. Liberal families average 6 percent higher incomes than conservative families. . . .

Conservatives not only donate more money to charity than liberals do, conservatives volunteer more time as well. More conservatives than liberals also donate blood.

According to Professor Brooks: "If liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply of the United States would jump about 45 percent."

Professor Brooks admits that the facts he uncovered were the opposite of what he expected to find -- so much so that he went back and checked these facts again, to make sure there was no mistake.

A tip of the hat for the link to Roberto, who suggests that the reason for this trend is that, in general, conservatives tend to be more religious, and religious people give more. I agree, but I also think there's more to it than that.

Sowell himself hints at the answer when he writes, "It is liberals who advocate 'forgiveness' of loans to Third World countries, a 'living wage' for the poor and a 'safety net' for all. But these are all government policies -- not individual acts of compassion."

Traditionally, conservatism has long advocated that individuals be allowed to donate their money privately as they choose, rather than having it donated for them via taxation. The Republican party may have neglected this principle in recent years, but it seems that the conservative segment of the population hasn't yet forgotten it.

Then Sowell goes on to ask why anyone would be a liberal, "if it is not that liberals are more compassionate," but again he himself points to the answer:

While both sides argue that their opponents are mistaken, those on the left have declared their opponents to be not merely in error but morally flawed as well. So the idea that liberals are more caring and compassionate goes with the territory, whether or not it fits the facts.

Those on the left proclaimed their moral superiority in the 18th century and they continue to proclaim it in the 21st century. What is remarkable is how long it took for anyone to put that belief to the test -- and how completely it failed that test.

So let me see: If I'm a liberal, I only have to give a little bit to charity to declare myself morally superior to those who give more than I do. Man, how come no one ever told me liberalism was so easy and fun?? Sign me up right now!

(Seriously, John Stossel will report on this book and the trends it shows tonight on 20/20, 10 p.m. EST on ABC. H/T Mariam Bell.)

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