Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Compassiontate Conservatives Give More--Money, Time and Blood

In a recent book, Who Really Cares, Arthur C. Brooks finally examines through statistics and hard data the now common assumption that liberals care more than conservatives. Brooks' finding--it is just the opposite. Thomas Sowell seeks to offer an explanation.

But first, here is what Sowell says about Brooks' book:
A new book, titled "Who Really Cares" by Arthur C. Brooks examines the actual behavior of liberals and conservatives when it comes to donating their own time, money, or blood for the benefit of others. It is remarkable that beliefs on this subject should have become conventional, if not set in concrete, for decades before anyone bothered to check these beliefs against facts.

What are those facts?

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.
But is not simply about money, I particularly liked this little gem:
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."
So after these foundational statements, Sowell launches into what he believes is the explanation.
Fundamental differences in ideology go back to fundamental assumptions about human nature. Based on one set of assumptions, it makes perfect sense to be a liberal. Based on a different set of assumptions, it makes perfect sense to be a conservative.

The two visions are not completely symmetrical, however. For at least two centuries, the vision of the left has included a belief that those with that vision are morally superior, more caring and more compassionate.

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.(emphasis added)
Sowell looks at one appropriate explanation, but here is another basic philosophical assumption that should not be overlooked--the assumptions about the role of government.

Liberals believe that government should be the provider of charitable services at taxpayer expense. With that mind set, since liberals are paying taxes, they are making their "charitable" contribution to the government to provide services.

Conservatives, on the hand, trust private organizations to do better with funds management and providing charitable services. Thus, they believe that make the contribution directly the a private organization is going to yeild the most good since they mistrust government to undertake such a mission in an efficient manner.

But Sowell hints at but doesn't complete another demographic explanation.
The vision of the left exalts the young especially as idealists while the more conservative vision warns against the narrowness and shallowness of the inexperienced. This study found young liberals to make the least charitable contributions of all, whether in money, time or blood. Idealism in words is not idealism in deeds.
In my talks with college age students, I often come up against this notion, that in their view, untempered by experience, "we should always do good." But while conservatives may want to do that, their experience tends to be tempered by a reality that we can't fix everything bad with simple good itentions and expressions of concern. It takes effort, both fiscal effort and sweat equity to make changes. It is far easier to say than to do.

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