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Are Conservatives More Generous?

Over at Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds comments on a new book purporting to show that religious conservatives are more generous than secular liberals because they donate more to charities. Reynolds spins this into the following comment:

ARE CONSERVATIVES more charitable?"The book's basic findings are that conservatives who practicereligion, live in traditional nuclear families and reject the notionthat the government should engage in income redistribution are the mostgenerous Americans, by any measure. Conversely, secular liberals whobelieve fervently in government entitlement programs give far less tocharity. They want everyone's tax dollars to support charitable causesand are reluctant to write checks to those causes, even whengovernments don't provide them with enough money."

Apparently they're not big on paying the taxes to support those entitlement programs, either: "Bono demands more of the taxes he won't pay."

Greg Sisk, at Mirror of Justice, also touts the book's findings here. It's only a matter of time before this meme obtains CW status, like the women who get rich off welfare by having baby after baby. It's just too rhetorically useful to let truth or sound analysis get in the way.

I'm not sure what the comparison between religious conservatives andsecular liberals is supposed to prove, but it certainly doesn't establish, to quoteInstapundit (quoting beliefnet), that conservatives are more generous "by any measure." Atmost, it shows that religious conservatives are more generous donors toprivate charities than secular liberals. But, if I define "generous" to encompass, say,support against one's financial interest for social programs fundedthrough redistributive taxation, then wealthy liberals (secular orreligious), who generally support such taxes and such programs, do welland conservatives (religious or not) don't look so hot.

I have not yet read the book (though I certainly will), but before drawing any conclusions, I would be interested to know whether the "private charities"canvassed for the study include the religious conservatives own churches. I'd also like to see the magnitude of the differences, especially on some of the non-monetary measures noted in the beleifnet article, such as blood donation. Finally, I'd want to see the numbers for secular conservatives and religious liberals, since the presence of religious involvement is a potentially conflating variable in this analysis that cuts across political orientation.

To be honest,though, I'd be fairly unsurprised to see that conservatives as a whole donate more toprivate charities than liberals. Given egalitarianliberal views about the role of the state in solving certain widespreadsocial problems, one would expect liberals to favor state over privateefforts and to view at least some sorts of private charitablecontributions as wasted money.

This may be a variant on what Carl Sagan used to refer to this as the "brick in the toilet"question. He talked about one category of people, who think thatenvironmental problems should be solved by voluntary changes in individual behavior. Others, he said, think that many such problemsrequire a level of coordination that can only be accomplished throughthe state. He used water conservation as hishypothetical. People in the former group might put a brick in theirtoilet to save water with each flush but oppose centralized regulationaimed at ensuring broad-based compliance with water conservation efforts. (These are yourreligious conservatives, if you will, who will give money to privatecharities but oppose state intervention in the service of socialjustice.) On the other hand, people in the latter group, who favorstate intervention to compel water conservation but are skeptical ofthe effectiveness of voluntary action in this regard, might support (orvote for) state regulation of water consumption but, in its absence,might not bother to put the brick in their toilet because they view theaction as pointless without the broader coordination offered by stateaction. (These are your secular liberals who favor redistributivepolicies, even to their own financial disadvantage, but who, accordingto the book, are marginally stingier with their donations to charity.) Whether this story supports saying that people who put bricks in theirtoilets are the "true" environmentalists (or religious conservativesare the truly generous) and the people who do not but who vote forenvironmental interests are hypocrites strikes me as unanswerable apartfrom one's views about the substantive merits of the beliefs underlyingtheir decisions.

The relevance of Bono's behavior for all of this strikes me as toofar-fetched to be worthy of comment and bordering on (or, on secondthought, crossing well over into) the realm of intellectualdishonesty. (Not surprising for Instapundit.) Suffice it to say thatif we want to get into comparing the anecdotal evidence of hypocrisyamong prominent individuals within the ranks of our respectivepolitical movements, religious conservatives are living in a glasshouse. In the same way that meth-purchasing, male-prostitute-hiringevangelical ministers don't say anything about the bona fides ofconservative Christians, or the merits of their beliefs, Bono's taxevasion adds nothing useful to this conversation.

UPDATE: Over at Mirror of Justice, Rick Garnett takes issue with my attempt to redefine "generosity" to include willingness to pay higher taxes to support programs for the poor. He says:

After all, whether they support redistributive policies ornot, religious conservatives pay their taxes, just like "wealthyliberals"; they just give away more on top of that.

Fair point. Except that, in the states where religious conservatives predominate,taxes are lower (as are government services). In states were "wealthyliberals" live, taxes (and services) are higher. Compare, for example,South Dakota (45th highest tax burden) or Alabama (46th) or Tennessee(47th) or Oklahoma (40th) with, say, New York (2nd) or Hawaii (3rd) orRhode Island (4th). So it's not clear to me at all, to quote Rick,that "religious conservatives" pay taxes "just like 'wealthyliberals.'" As long as the increment that religious conservativesdonate to charity does not exceed the difference in tax burden between your typical red and blue state, then Ibelieve my point stands. Interestingly, nothing in the descriptions ofthe book I've seen on-line says anything about the absolute magnitude ofthe giving we're talking about. It's all about the relative rate ofgiving between religious conservatives and secular liberals. (As anaside, I've never seen any data suggesting that conservatives are morelikely to evade taxes, but, if the Bush administration's policies withrespect to IRS enforcement are any guide, there appears to be aconstituency for tax evasion among wealthy Republicans.)

UPDATE II:  Apparently, Brooks found in an October 2003 article that religiosity has a much greater impact on charitable giving and volunteering than political affiliation.  (I can't find an on-line version of the article, but you can find a shorter version of it here.)  In fact, Brooks says that intensity of political feeling matters more than what one actually believes (e.g., strongly conservative and strongly liberal give more than more wishy washy types).  If religiosity trumps politics, then this strikes me as altering some of the fundamental meaning of the book's findings.  It suggests that the most significant factor at work is religiosity and not ideology and that the comparison of religious conservatives to secular liberals is a red herring intended to stir up debate (and publicity for the book), but does not tell us much about either conservatives or liberals.  In any event, I've ordered the book from Amazon and will report back when I've had a chance to read it.

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The beliefnet article itself contains the explanation for why there is more charitable giving by conservatives:"One [study] noted that people who drink alcohol moderately are more successful and charitable than those who don't."Everyone knows, empirically, that conservatives drink more than liberals (or they drink more of the really good, really expensive stuff), thus statistically increasing the likelihood that an inebriated conservative will inadvertently add a couple of extra zeros to his or her check to a charity.I'd say my reasoning is about as sound as the reasoning in the book under review...which ain't saying much.

"Given egalitarian liberal views about the role of the state in solving certain widespread social problems, one would expect liberals to favor state over private efforts and to view at least some sorts of private charitable contributions as wasted money. "This is a valiant attempt at spinning. But still not a very good one: After all, why should anyone believe a liberal who claimed that the real reason he spent all his money on personal consumption was because he believed it a "waste of money" to give a few thousand dollars to any private charity when the federal government could do so much more? Call me cynical, but I just wouldn't find such a person believable, any more than it would be believable if a stereotypical rich conservative said that the only reason he bought a $50 million yacht was to provide employment for yacht builders. The answer to both would be the same: Isn't it marvelously convenient that your ideology so neatly coincides with maximizing your own personal consumption?

"Given egalitarian liberal views about the role of the state in solving certain widespread social problems, one would expect liberals to favor state over private efforts and to view at least some sorts of private charitable contributions as wasted money. "Your attempt at spinning these results also makes no sense. If I'm a liberal who supports broad redistribution, I will still surely be aware that the government does not (and will never) eradicate every conceivable form of human need, and I therefore would not believe it "wasted money" to give money to a private or religious charity. After all, what's the chain of reasoning supposed to be here? Something like this?: "I voted for a leftist congressman who talks big about spending money on food stamps. Therefore, I can ignore the Thanksgiving canned food drive in my community, because I wouldn't want to waste my money."

If I define "generous" to encompass, say, support against one's financial interest for social programs funded through redistributive taxation, then wealthy liberals (secular or religious), who generally support such taxes and such programs, do well and conservatives (religious or not) don't look so hot.Doesnt this assume that the programs are fully funded? To the extent they are not fully funded those who vote for more redistribution, even when against their own current financial interest, may also be incurring sizeable obligations on behalf of other taxpayers not only in the present but also in the future. This is the kind of generosity that will bankrupt social insurance programs and deserves to be substantially discounted. Needless to say, this is not a purely hypothetical problem.

Let me put it this way: The sort of reasoning that you attribute to liberals -- apparently as an intended defense -- seems to me far more damning than if you had merely said, "Liberals tend to be so focused on politics that they forget about private charities." Mere forgetfulness, in other words, would be preferable to the all-too-convenient, cold-hearted non sequitur that you attribute to liberals.

Stuart, I think you're misunderstanding the point I'm making. The book does not say, and I don't believe, that liberals don't donate to charity AT ALL. The book finds that, ON AVERAGE, they donate SOMEWHAT less. My argument is that, if true, that observation would not mean that liberals are hypocrites (the point of the book, I take it, or at least of the conservative glee over its findings), but that it might be explained by the fact that liberals believe SOME marginal donations to be pointless as a result of their political commitments. Of course, this all depends on the scale of the effect the book purports to find -- something on which I cannot comment having not read the book or evaluated its evidence. I'm skeptical of the validity of its findings as a whole, for the reasons I suggest in the post (e.g., its failure, at least as described, to control for religious involvement). But, as I said, I would not be shocked to find SOME marginal effect along the lines it describes. I don't think this would show that liberals are hypocrites anymore than the environmentalist who doesn't put a brick in his toilet is not a hypocrite (in my view). It might just show that, on average, they have less faith in decentralized, private solutions to SOME problems and are therefore SOMEWHAT less willing to make personal contributions (apart from taxes) to solve those problems.I gather from your comments (e.g., your desire to assign to my words the least plausible meaning they will support) that you share the perspective of the book and the commentators praising it, so I suspect I'm wasting my time in explaining this to you, but I thought I'd clarify my point, for what it's worth.

Sounds like Reynolds begs the question a bit about what charity actually is. Are donations of time or goods (I donate all my used paperbacks to the library's second-hand bookstore) included? Or is generosity only measured in money. And if only in money, the study would be skewed in favor of conservatives, who have all the money. JUST KIDDING (sorta).I don't have a lot of disposable income, but I do try to give in these ways when I can't write a very generous check.Also, I've volunteered to help raise funds when I can't offer much myself, and I've always found that conservatives and liberals are equally generous when they believe in the cause. Respite care programs and hospice seem to be among those charities that attract cheerful givers of all stripes. My sense is that conservatives like to give closer to home and know how the money will be used, but I don't see that as cheap; it's just prudent giving.

Eduardo -- Apologies if I'm misconstruing you. But since you reiterate this point: " it might be explained by the fact that liberals believe SOME marginal donations to be pointless as a result of their political commitments. "Can I ask you to be specific? Name a charity to which donations would be "pointless," given a liberal's view of the world, but that conservatives would find worthwhile? (Leave out religious charities, for the moment; Brooks apparently finds that conservatives are more likely to donate to secular charities as well. Also leave out strictly ideological 501(c)(3)'s, such as National RIght to LIfe.)I understand the liberal view that private food banks cannot take the place of food stamps, for example, or that private donations to medical centers won't take the place of Medicare. But spell it out: How does that belief justify a liberal in thinking it literally a waste of time to give more money to a food bank? That would seem to be a complete non sequitur. Try an example that is switched around. Suppose it turned out that conservatives were 75% more likely than liberals to have abortions. I imagine that quite a few liberals would be delighted to report such results. So suppose a conservative commentator responded with this: "Conservatives may be more likely to get abortions, but that's only because according to their beliefs, abortion won't really end until the government institutes a nationwide ban. Until then, they realize that their own personal lives aren't going to make much difference to the nationwide abortion rate." How would that reasoning strike you? Perhaps as a bit desperate? Perhaps as not making much sense? You have to admit that given the facial implausibility of such thinking, you have a heavy burden here. That's why I ask for specifics. Describe out a real-world situation in which a real liberal would think it a waste of time to donate money to a particular charity.

OK so can we then look at the statistics regarding conservatives who don't practice religion, or who live in nontraditional families, and compare them to liberals who practice religion and live in traditional nuclear families? Because contrary to the fantasy, there are lots of non-trad, agnostic conservatives out there. And vice versa.It seems to me that what we might be getting at here is that people in traditional nuclear families give more, or people who practice religion give more, or people who live in traditional nuclear families and practice religion give more. They seem to be extrapolating that the conservatism's the thing, when in fact it might just be that participating in a traditional family somehow correlated with one being more generous with time, talent and treasure, or that participating in religion regularly does this.I don't think it has anything to do with conservatism, and I don't think living in a traditional family or going to church regularly makes you a conservative. It certainly doesn't in my case.Oh, and the idea that conservatives don't believe in using the government to force income redistribution? That's the funniest thing I've heard in a while.

Stuart, how about this? A charity that will pay for school vouchers to send poor elementary school-age kids to private or religious schools. How about a non-profit that will pay farmers not to turn their land into suburban subdivisions. How about a pragmatic business owner who thinks the minimum wage should be $10 per hour but fears being put at a competitive disadvantage if he unilaterally pays his workers that much, knowing that his competitor will undercut his prices by paying his workers less (not really a charity example but still in the same genre, I think)? Is he irrational for paying his workers the prevailing wage but then voting for (or donating to) a party that supports hiking the minimum wage? In addition, everyone has a finite number of resources, whether monetary or temporal. My guess is that, as you say, political advocacy groups are not included within "charitable giving," for the book's purposes. This seems to cook the books in favor of conservative giving. Sincere, so-called compassionate conservatives (in general) think the state is ineffective at providing services for the poor, while liberals (in general) think it is effective, at least for certain problems, like providing universal education or health care. Why, then, would it be implausible to think that conservatives devote marginally more of their resources to private solutions (e.g., charities) to social problems ("a thousand points of light" and all that) while sincere liberals focus on state solutions (political advocacy groups, etc.) and are marginally more skeptical of some proposed private solutions? (This was not my original point, but perhaps even diverting some of the -- finite -- money that a conservative might give to the food bank to a political advocacy group or a particular candidate might explain some of the discrepancy. Depending on how the study was conducted, that donation might just show up as a lesser commitment to "charitable" causes.) Again, though, my first point is that I'm sure the methodology of this study was highly suspect, and I have serious questions about its findings, but I need to read it before I can get into those issues.

"Stuart, how about this? A charity that will pay for school vouchers to send poor elementary school-age kids to private or religious schools. How about a non-profit that will pay farmers not to turn their land into suburban subdivisions."I think your examples are still a bit ideologically tinged -- presumably a (white) liberal would be less likely to support school voucher charities regardless of his or her overall level of charitable giving. What you're really trying to defend here, however, is not that liberals view conservative charities as a waste of time. What you're trying to defend is the claim that liberals view completely non-partisan and non-ideological charities -- on the margin -- as a waste of time. It would be nice to have an example where this sort of reasoning would make sense. Consider: if it's true that liberals are (on average) less likely to donate blood, how does liberalism cause someone to think of donating blood -- even on the margin -- as a waste of time? And how would such reasoning be at all defensible? "My guess is that, as you say, political advocacy groups are not included within "charitable giving," for the book's purposes. This seems to cook the books in favor of conservative giving."I'm speaking without having read the book. But suppose that advocacy groups are indeed excluded -- why does this cook the books? Don't conservatives have advocacy groups too? I certainly have the impression that they do (Focus on the Family; National Right to Life; ACLJ; Family Research Council; Cato; Heritage; etc., etc., etc.). Anyway, since neither one of us has read the study, it doesn't make much sense for us to debate its merits. (I'd bet that it resembles this article, though: http://www.policyreview.org/oct03/brooks_print.html ). My only point was to say that I don't -- and still don't -- find it plausible that liberals really think of private charities as a waste of time (on the margin). And even if liberals did think that way, their reasoning would be incorrect, unjustified, and suspiciously convenient.

Some suggestions: "conservatives" have more money to give. "consevatives" feel guilty about having more to give. "conservatives" itemize.

Here are several posts by Jim Lindgren at Northwestern:http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2006_11_19-2006_11_25.shtml#116401294... the results arise because conservatives make more money? Not according to Brooks (note, however, that Lindgren criticizes him on this point): "In 2000 [citing 2000 SCCBS data], households headed by a conservative gave, on average, 30 percent more money to charity than households headed by a liberal ($1,600 to $1,227). This discrepancy is not simply an artifact of income differences; on the contrary, liberal families earned an average of 6 percent more per year than conservative families, and conservative families gave more than liberal families within every income class, from poor to middle class to rich." How about the role of religion? Here are Lindgren's words: "Below some commenters speculate that the pattern of greater donations to charity by anti-redistributionists is trivial in size or simply a function of religion. But anti-redistributionists give more to secular (non-religious) charities as well. Brooks reports (p. 56) that strong anti-redistributionists gave 12 times more money to charity than strong redistributionists, and 9 times more to secular (non-religious) causes. "In my own analysis of donation (which was simply part of a paragraph in a much longer paper), I expected to find larger donations and a greater frequency of donation for anti-redistributionists, but I expected that to disappear entirely when one controlled for income. As expected, the effect is lessened but to my surprise, it still remains statistically significant."

It is always interesting to me that "progressives" get so wrapped around the axel when they are foisted on their own pitard of crying hypocrisy.I live in Massachusetts, and for all the problems I have with things here, they have a nifty thing on the tax return - thanks to a few moderates and conservatives in the Commonwealth - that lets taxpayers choose to pay a higher tax rate based on a percentage in effect before the rates were reduced in response to a voter initiative. How many choose that rate? Less than 0.03% - That's less than 3 of every 10,000 people, and I understand many of them actually do it by mistake! Absolutely nothing stops anyone from giving more money to the government than they owe in taxes, but no one does. By the way, the government - federal, state, and local - is a tax-exempt entity. In fact, unlike charities to which you can only deduct a limited amount of your income in contributions - ask that hard-hearted Dick Cheney who exceeded that amount a few years ago - every cent is tax deductable.I am not going to get into the "who is more generous" debate, but the "I am generous because I vote for liberal social programs," is hogwash.

Sorry - axle

I'm not sure why you think "ideologically tinged" charities should be out of bounds. After all, the point is that conservatives will think solutions (like private scholarships) will work more often than government solutions (like good public schools), so ideologically tinged charities are precisely the margins where we would expect to find the most obvious differences. A rational person who holds the "compassionate conservative" beliefs will donate money to scholarships and vote against redistributing money to public schools in poor districts. A rational person holding the opposite beliefs will do the opposite. I think the point just is that conservatives are more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to private charitable strategies in a broader array of circumstances, just as they are likely NOT to give the benefit of the doubt to government solutions. Saying that liberals are less likely to give to charities at the margins, notwithstanding a sincere concern for the poor, is no less plausible than saying conservatives are less likely to support government programs for the poor, notwithstanding their professed (and assumedly sincere) concern for the poor. Each one employs its ideologically informed views about likely effectiveness to guide his behavior. Nothing too shocking there, I think.In this respect, I can recast the puzzle from asking why liberals don't give to charity at the same rate as conservatives to asking why conservatives who profess a concern for the poor don't support government programs for the poor at the same rate as liberals. If we assume that the effectiveness of either solution is clear to all, it seems like an inconsistency (for whoever is wrong), but if we assume good faith beliefs about effectiveness that in fact differ, the book's conclusion seems almost banal. It's easy to tell a story in which each side is portrayed as self-serving, but it's easy to tell the rational story as well. In fact, neither one is a puzzle, at least not in my view (and, for the record, I'm sure there are self-serving people on both sides). Of course, in the end, I don't think the empirics underlying the two world views are evenly balanced. It's just far easier to avoid contributing to charity that to avoid paying taxes. And charities often squander their resources, just as governments can. But that's why I'm a liberal.

"I'm not sure why you think "ideologically tinged" charities should be out of bounds. After all, the point is that conservatives will think solutions (like private scholarships) will work more often than government solutions (like good public schools), so ideologically tinged charities are precisely the margins where we would expect to find the most obvious differences. A rational person who holds the "compassionate conservative" beliefs will donate money to scholarships and vote against redistributing money to public schools in poor districts. A rational person holding the opposite beliefs will do the opposite. "This is all completely beside the point, for the reason I already identified. I readily grant you that liberals are less likely to give money to charities that are perceived as "conservative" in some sense. But how come they don't make up for that by donating money elsewhere? That's the real question. "In this respect, I can recast the puzzle from asking why liberals don't give to charity at the same rate as conservatives to asking why conservatives who profess a concern for the poor don't support government programs for the poor at the same rate as liberals. If we assume that the effectiveness of either solution is clear to all, it seems like an inconsistency (for whoever is wrong), but if we assume good faith beliefs about effectiveness that in fact differ, the book's conclusion seems almost banal. "Are you seriously trying to put forth an equivalency here? Charles-Murray-type conservatives believe that welfare spending of any kind is destructive -- and you're saying that liberals think of local blood drives in the same way? Show me the liberal who really has a good faith belief that blood drives are ineffective or should be replaced (how??) by a government program. (Referring to blood drives isn't a hypothetical on my part: Brooks' own website contains this passage: http://www.arthurbrooks.net/excerpt.html"The differences go beyond money and time. Take blood donations, for example. In 2002, conservative Americans were more likely to donate blood each year, and did so more often, than liberals. If liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply in the United States would jump by about 45 percent.")

You do concede that the blood drive example -- if true -- is a serious or even fatal blow to your theory, right? If not, please answer: 1. Do liberals believe that blood drives are a "waste[]", as your original post suggested? If so, what facts justify that belief? 2. Do liberals believe that blood drives are "pointless," as your comment suggested? If so, what facts justify that belief? 3. Do liberals believe that blood drives lack "effectiveness," as your most recent comment suggests? If so, what facts justify that belief? 4. If no facts exist to support the above beliefs, do you still think that such beliefs about blood drives could conceivably be in "good faith"? If so, why?

Eduardo,I am sure this comment will cause a stir, but I think it worth making. The problem with most government solutions to social problems is that all they do is assume effectiveness without actually requiring it or testing it. At least with charities, I can choose to not contribute if they waste money. I argue that it is, for many individuals, an easier route than taking or demanding personal responsibility for problems.So long as my motives are pure, and I want to do the right thing, and I vote for the right approach, my hands are clean and I am a good person. It doesnt actually matter if the solution works or not. It doesnt even matter if it makes the problem worse for the people it is intended to help. So long as I want to do good, I am off the hook for the consequences.Another point is that government solutions tend to be based on giving control of resources to entities and people who have an inherent conflict of interest. Whether it is the educational bureaucracy, the social welfare bureaucracy, or the Agriculture Department, the interests of those entrusted with making the solution work almost always conflict in fundamental ways with the interests of the people they are supposed to help when the relationship is involuntary.It is interesting that you pick public education as an example because I think it is one of the best examples of why most government solutions for social problems fail. It also demonstrates another aspect of government solutions to the problem which is, that because of the inherent conflict I mentioned above, the nature of the problem is almost always misrepresented by the people responsible for solving it.There is absolutely no evidence that school funding has anything to do with performance yet we are repeatedly told this is the underlying problem. In fact, if you use parochial schools as an example, there is almost, but not quite, an inverse relationship between funding and performance. We are told that program after program is disappearing because there isnt enough money. I dont deny some programs are disappearing or being based on user fees, but in most places this isnt because of a lack on money, it is because of how the money is spent. Look at the Dept of Education web site. Real spending per pupil has gone up almost every year for the last half-century. In most states it is more than double what it was 30 years ago in real terms (adjusted for inflation). Despite this, the US falls further and further behind in education at the elementary and secondary levels. Why? Because the people who make the decisions about how to spend the money are paid with the same money and they are not accountable for outcomes. The problem is the system itself. Pouring more money into it is like tricking out an AMC Gremlin.Another problem with government, involuntary, command solutions is that they almost always have collateral negative impacts that no one is responsible for, and are frequently born by the people who are least able to bear them. Look at the big minimum wage debate. By and large, the free market sets pretty reasonable wages. I admit there are problems on the margins, but the minimum wage is like using a sledge hammer to kill a flea. It always results, at least short term, in job losses. Whose jobs disappear? Its not the suburbanites who feel good about giving a dishwasher a raise, its the dishwasher.Finally, getting back to the underlying charitable impulse question and the idea that supporting government programs are really being charitable. I say its hogwash because the people who support these programs are always welcome to give their money either to the government or to private entities to solve the problem that concerns them. The Sagan, brick in the toilet, argument notwithstanding, how is it charitable to say in effect, I am willing to voluntarily support a cause, but only so long as it is involuntary for everyone else?

Tax policy complicates these issues and encourages unholy alliances. Some private charitable organizations, for example, oppose reductions in progressive tax rates. The true cost of a $100 contribution increases from $60 to $70 when tax rates go from 40% to 30%. As contributions become more costly they naturally decline. In the same vein, when elimination of the estate tax is discussed many non-profit entities complain that their contributions will vanish since there will be less incentive to minimize taxes.These topics were discussed when the Reagan tax cuts were introduced in the 80s. I remember Nathan Glazer summarizing the evidence from several studies: the average charitable gifts of millionaires did fall but was more than offset by the larger number of new millionaires that were making contributions. Income and substitution effects, as economists phrase the problem, work at cross purposes and there is no way to tell in advance which is more powerful.Putting aside all other considerations, which of course we shouldnt, a Machiavellian with a statist orientation might prefer a low tax rate (which would minimize Bono type income sheltering) and a broad tax base (eliminating the deduction for charitable deductions) as the regime most likely to increase government funds and crowd out private charity. A compassionate conservative might prefer soak-the-rich tax rates with generous charitable deductions or credits.

Comment on the update -Don't be too quick to equate more taxes with better or more services.In many states - including my home of Taxachusetts - and awful lot of that higher tax burden goes to very high compensation and benefits packages to the government employees and enourmous bureacracy. Having lived in a variety of Red and Blue states, I have never seen a correlation between tax rates and levels of actual services.

Also, to further explore Eduardo's theory that liberals and conservatives just differ as to their beliefs in what is effective: Here are some reasons that conservatives have historically given for distrusting government welfare programs: 1. They always end up costing more money than anyone planned. 2. They fail to distinguish between deserving and undeserving recipients. 3. Because of 2, they end up subsidizing irresponsible behavior and reducing or eliminating the natural incentives that people would otherwise have to live a responsible life. 4. They crowd out or replace civic organizations that would otherwise thrive, thereby draining some of the life out of real communities. Leave aside the question whether any of these reasons are valid; that's not the point here. The point is that some conservatives do have a good faith belief that government programs could end up doing more harm than good. Now, according to Eduardo, liberals feel the same way about private charities. But really? Do liberals really think that private charities (say, battered women's shelters) are to be condemned because they give money to the undeserving, or because they cost too much money, etc., etc.? That seems very implausible. When liberals do raise the "ineffectiveness" point, my impression is that they are talking about the fact that private charities don't have enough money to satisfy every social need. But why would THIS be a reason (in liberals' minds) NOT to give private charities more money?

Odd, I don't remember a "Liberal/Conservative" checkoff block on my federal income tax return.Maybe I'm missing something here?

Stuart,I'm talking about the domain of charitable giving, so it's perfectly reasonable to think that liberals and conservatives will give to, say, food banks at the same rate, while conservatives will have a broader range of other charitable giving to solve problems liberals would see as not properly the subject of charitable activity (e.g., my school example, or, say a charity to purchase private health insurance for the uninsured). My suggestion is that this gap in views about the proper domain of charitable solutions explains the gap between liberals and conservatives. I've given some examples of the content of that gap, but you've dismissed them as "conservatively tinged," and I'm not sure I have much to add. I just don't accept your position that those charities are out of bounds. I think, systematically, conservatives will see charitable gifts as appropriate solutions to social problems more often than liberals will. (In any event, see my update above on why the conservative-liberal giving gap might be smaller than some of these discussions of the book have assumed. A comparison of apples to apples -- religious liberals to religious conservatives -- may yield a far smaller, or perhaps insignificant, difference.) It's hard to know without seeing the data in the book.On the blood bank point, my guess is that there is not a real correlation between ideology and blood donation, once religion is taken out of the equation. In other words, I would be willing to wager that there is no difference in blood donations between religious liberals and conservatives. I would also be willing to wager that the difference between religious and secular donors has something to do with opportunities to give -- in my experience, blood drives are held far more frequently in churches than in, say, workplaces, where secular types might have a more realistic opportunity to give. Again, though, I need to see the data.

I'm not sure what "fositing" omnn a petard means.Seriously, one problem is generosity being equated to money donations. Those of us involved in RSVP (retired senior volunteer programs) reckno there is much more out there in terms of donation and how is that measured?As to public funds, it's obvious they can't solve all problems -that's a straw man at best.In terms of schools though, money really matters. eg. read (or better still expeience, "Savage Inequalities" to see what's available to students. Does that solve all? Of course not, but it's vital.Living in the wealthiest per capita county in the US, I'm tired of folks whining about taxes here while many lived high on the hog of governmentr science programs. Easy phrases about "throwing money" at problems annoy me. Still, I assune this thread will go on and on and on...

On blood drives: I agree that seeing the data would be useful, as would data on religious liberals compared to religious conservatives. At the same time, I note that you seem to have abandoned your claim that this is all explained because liberals believe (in good faith!) that blood drives are a waste of time. So let's move on: "I'm talking about the domain of charitable giving, so it's perfectly reasonable to think that liberals and conservatives will give to, say, food banks at the same rate, while conservatives will have a broader range of other charitable giving to solve problems liberals would see as not properly the subject of charitable activity (e.g., my school example, or, say a charity to purchase private health insurance for the uninsured). My suggestion is that this gap in views about the proper domain of charitable solutions explains the gap between liberals and conservatives.""The problem is: 1) your point seems empirical, but 2) in fact, it is entirely made-up (unless you have some evidence that you aren't revealing). That is, you don't seem to have any real evidence -- just armchair speculation -- that there really are more charities out there that appeal to conservatives in particular. Why do you ignore the many "liberal" charities that exist, i.e., women's shelters, AIDs hospices, nature conservancies, legal organizations in every state that provide services to the poor, halfway houses for immigrants, homeless shelters, and more? Indeed, if you look at a typical list of United Way recipients, the vast majority are simply not partisan in any way, and it is sheerly implausible to maintain that conservatives are more broadly represented in such a list. For example, here's the New York list of agencies that have something to do with "education." http://www.unitedwaynyc.org/?id=39&pg=ed You can't seriously maintain that a "conservative" charity devoted to school vouchers outbalances such a long list of non-partisan or even liberal-leaning charities. So how about it: Come up with a nationwide list of charities; classify all of them into "conservative," "liberal," or "non-partisan"; and then see if the "conservative" ones outnumber the liberal ones (you can weight by size, of course). THEN you could support your otherwise-non-intuitive claim that conservatives give more money only because there are more conservative charities out there.

Stuart -- Now you're just arguing against your own misconstruction of my positions rather than the positions themselves. (Where, for example, did I ever press the position that blood drives were pointless?) I would be the first to agree that my theory is speculative. I'm just trying to offer an alternative explanation for the data other than the moral inferiority of liberals, which is, for obvious reasons, a conclusion that I would not like to embrace. The data is there, both to challenge (which I've done) and to interpret. The point is not so much whether I can prove my interpretation as whether the interpretation offered by some conservative commentators (that liberals are hypocrites) is the only way to read the data (assuming arguendo that the data is accurate and valid). I think it's not the only way.Part of the problem here is that you're assuming that the gap I have to explain is a big one. I'm not so sure. The book appears to ignore the fact that liberals do allocate more of their money to taxation, by choosing to live in high-tax jurisdictions (or by choosing to tax themselves at higher tax rates in the jurisdictions where they live).I don't think I have to defend a very large giving gap. Consequently, if my domain effect ends up being quite small, so be it.

By the way, I think you're probably right that I don't want (or need) to hang my hat entirely on the domain effect. Given the spatial aspects of ideological commitment (e.g., the concentration of liberals in high tax, high service jurisdictions like NYC), I can admit that liberals might donate less money to, say, private homeless shelters without conceding that they are callous in the way you suggest. After all, in light of New York's recognition of a right to housing, NYC pays to house the homeless at public expense at a rate far higher than, say, Oklahoma City.

Well, perhaps you could be more clear in conceding that your original position (liberals tend to think that charity is a waste of time, or is pointless) is entirely inapplicable in many instances -- i.e., most obviously as to blood drives, but also as to the wide range of charities that are either non-partisan or even are liberal-leaning. Also, where are you getting the data on state tax burdens?

If you take CNN's chart: http://money.cnn.com/pf/features/lists/taxesbystate2005/index.htmlit's a bit too facile to cherry-pick out a few "liberal" and "conservative" states and then proclaim that liberals are paying higher taxes. Yes, the people in New York pay an effective 12%. But the conservatives in Nebraska, Utah, and Arkansas aren't far behind at 10.5-10.9%. Do you *know* that if NY liberals are less generous than Utah or Nebraska conservatives, this is sheerly because of higher taxes?

OK, so this will be my last comment on this post, but when I run a simple correlation between percent for Kerry in '04 and state tax burden, I get a positive correlation (.37). No cherry picking there.

OK, fair enough. By the way, since you're looking for every possible excuse not to believe Brooks' results, another point of attack that you might want to make is cost of living -- I have the impression that many of the areas with high costs of living are the dense urban areas that also tend to be more liberal. Higher cost of living = less money to give to charity, which would make it a bit misleading to compare overall giving levels in San Francisco to those in South Dakota (which Brooks apparently does). The cost-of-living point strikes me as quite a bit more plausible than the notion that liberals think charity is a waste of time (and it isn't nearly as unwittingly demeaning to liberals!).

Here are some questions:1. What is charity? Do environmental or similar causes count, or how else are we limiting the notion of charity?2. If you look at IRS stats, contributions to churches outstrip contributions to any other kind of (c)(3) organization, by a lot. Is the lurking variable here contributions to churches?It would be no surprise to find that those who consider themselves to be conservative are giving more if the concept of charity includes church organizations -- but the bulk of contributions aren't necessarily (or even probably) going to the direct provision of services to needy people. That's a distinction that might make a material difference to some in how they define charity and analyze who is more charitable based on their political proclivities. Funding my church's new wing might be "charitable" in the technical sense, but it doesn't really lighten the load of the poor, sick and elderly, except, perhaps, indirectly. Defining one's terms helps a lot in a debate such as this one. And my final comment, what does it matter what anyone does "on average"?

Eduardo -- if you're still reading, I apologize for using too-harsh language in some bits -- i.e., "unwittingly," or "spinning," etc. I should have confined myself to disagreement with your substantive point without making unnecessary comments on your state of mind.

In my view this exchange has been informative and clarifying. It illuminates for me how strong is the preference for government solutions, mandates and coordination within a certain strand of liberalism.1) It may be there are some opportunities for charitable organizations. If Eduardo is correct, for example, that secular liberals are just as willing to donate blood but just dont have the opportunity then the blood banks can easily solve the problem and gain a large new source of supply. The Brooks book itself probably can highlight other opportunities.2) Also, and here I'll be a little facetious, if generous liberals are attracted by high tax jurisdictions perhaps a competitive advantage might accrue to the cities and states that very publicly raise taxes. 3) The correlation between high state tax rates and the Kerry vote in 2004 isnt the only correlation worth noting. According to Phillip Longman, a demographer at the New America Foundation, Bush states had a 13 percent higher fertility rate than their blue counterparts, whose base, as he puts it, is essentially non-replicating. Over the past 30 years, the bastions of the Democratic Party have been losing people."http://www.joelkotkin.com/Politics/NR%20Parent_Trap.htmMilton Friedman, as strong a defender of the private sector as any, acknowledged that most government welfare measures have been proposed by generous and committed altruists. The problem is that when those diffuse and weak motives are not maintained factional struggles develop and political strength rapidly replaces need as the determining factor in allocating benefits in the public sector. Giving entitlements to one group encourages previously unknown groups to emerge and claim an equal share. Those who face limited opportunities in the Kerry states because they are not members of a favored group are grateful they have the Bush states to welcome them. If the high tax states are to be credited as generous to their existing population, those in place, then the low tax states should also be acknowledged for their far less recognized generosity in providing opportunities to newcomers and outsiders. Unfortunately, the liberal ledger books too often ignore the debits their regulations and ill-conceived welfare schemes impose on those who are not the direct beneficiaries of their attention.

This discussion thus far has focused almost exclusively on labels, stastics, and empirical data. The disagreements about these things notwithstanding, is there agreement about the following?1. The serious Christian ought not to try to distinguish between the "deserving" and the "undeserving" poor. Every human being is entitled, by virtue of his or her humanity, to decent food, medical care, shelter and clothing. No exceptions! For the serious Christian the issue is: How do we provide these things? it is not: Ought we to provide them?2. Giving to private agencies who work to alleviate poverty is not a matter of sheer generosity. It is a matter of justice.3. Donors ought to concern themselves with the efficacy of their donations, but there are unlikely to be any agencies that are perfectly efficacious. Donors don't have perfect criteria to measure effectiveness. So donors ought to be careful in their criticisms.4. In evaluating a national or regional agency, we ought to be slow to generalize. For example, let's say that the Topeka office of the XYZ national agency deserves an F for its performance, but the Toledo office deserves an A. Aggregating these two evaluations and concluding that the resultant C is informative about either office is fallacious.5. Every discussion of public policy about the public programs for the poor and the ways of funding them ought to aim at providing the basic needs for all of the poor, even those deemed "undeserving." For the serious Christian, the ultimate reason to support or oppose any public response is its effect on the poor themselves.6. All programs to help the poor, whether public or private, are unavoidably open to reasonable criticism. So the people who run them ought to have an openness to constructive criticism. But likewise, no critic can propose an alternative program that is itself immune to criticism. We have to live without certainty in these matters. So a "generosity of spirit" is called for on the part of all involved.I'm prepared to claim that these six points are points that are neither "liberal" nor "conservative." Until one is prepared to acknowledge them, he or she cannot claim to be speaking as a serious Christian ought to speak.Nothing that I've said settles any practical questions. But they do mark off the proper field in which practical questions ought to be thrashed out. From another perspective, any citizen or political office holder will have to debate public programs to help the poor with all their fellow citizens regardless of what their religious convictions happen to be. That debate will have political norms of its own to observe.Happy Thanksgiving to all, especially to the neediest.

Bernard: "The serious Christian ought not to try to distinguish between the "deserving" and the "undeserving" poor. Every human being is entitled, by virtue of his or her humanity, to decent food, medical care, shelter and clothing. No exceptions!"Does St. Paul count as a "serious Christian"? II Thess. 3:10: "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat."

Stuart,Just a brief reply.First, lifting any particular quotation out of Scripture would allow anyone to "prove" all sorts of horrors. That holds for the passage you quote and ALL others.Second, we are blessed with a Tradition that guides our efforts to understand and follow Scripture. Indeed, the written Scripture that we now have originated as a divinely guided Tradition. See for example, Jarislov Pelikan's marvelous book, "Whose Bible Is It?" Unless I am mistaken, this Tradition of ours and the Biblical texts that are part and parcel of it, support the position I tried to articulate in my Nov. 22 posting.

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About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.