One Minute Book: Give give give til it hurts? The answer may surprise you!

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Today's tome: Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism by Arthur C. Brooks:

Epigraph:

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Foreword by James Q. Wilson, page viii

…Brooks suggests a different and more fascinating possibility: it may be that charitable giving helps improve the economy.

Page 1:

"Regime Change Starts at Home," read one sign, overtly comparing President George W. Bush to the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who had recently been ousted by American forces under a policy dubbed "regime change."

Page 2:

These are, perhaps, the most common stereotypes in our modern American political discourse: The political left is compassionate and charitable toward the less fortunate, while the political right is oblivious to suffering.

Page 4:

"The blue state citizens make the Rousseauvian mistake of thinking humans are essentially good, and so they never realize when they are about to be slugged from behind."

Page 8:

If we look at party affiliation instead of ideology, the story remains largely the same—if anything, it makes the political left look less charitable, not more so.

Page 16:

Conservatives think that donations to the Heritage Foundation are better than those to the American Civil Liberties Union; atheists believe donations to churches are a waste of money (or worse), and so on.

Page 32:

But is it true that the religious right is an unparalleled force in American politics?

Page 64:

The unexpected part of Mr. Dawson's story is this: He gave nearly all his money away.

Page 128:

We have already discussed the effects of the European "baby bust" on the financing of pension systems, but the economic maladies go deeper than just this.

Last page (180):

There should not be "two Americas" when it comes to charity.

Appendix:

Percentage who believe that we have become a society of haves and have-nots:
Liberals 92% | Conservatives 51%

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  1. Arthur C. Brooks is a great American.

  2. In the more current versions of the transaltions of the Bible, the word charity is translated “love.” Do you feel like love and charity are the same things?

  3. Conservatives think that donations to the Heritage Foundation are better than those to the American Civil Liberties Union; atheists believe donations to churches are a waste of money (or worse), and so on.

    I hope he’s got plenty of evidence to back up outlandish, counterintuitive claims like these!

  4. I guess I’m one of the slow kids, but I don’t see the deeper meaning in the seemingly-random selection of quotes above. In the future, for the benefit of us remedials, could you please include your point?

    larry

  5. Charity, in the original, say for Augustine, meant thinking the best of somebody instead of the worst.

    Much later it became money, for some reason.

  6. I wonder what the percentage is of those who think that government hurts the poor more than helps it is?

    Also, what percentage blames our government run, union infested urban K-12 schools for a huge part of the have/havenot equation?

  7. There’s a significant ideological – nay, even theological – difference between the “righties” and the “lefties” over the issue of “charity.” My definition of charity precludes forced giving. State-coerced transfers of wealth just don’t qualify. For many on the left, even the “religious left” such as the crowd around Sojourners magazine or the Catholic Worker movement, the issue isn’t charity but justice. They aren’t much different than marxists in their complaint that a society organized on capitalist principles, even if it allows for charitable giving, is inherently unjust and some kind of an affront to their god, (that commie!) That the Old Testament calls for “justice” is plain. Don’t ask me what word is used in the original Hebrew, and whether translating the relevant term as “justice” in our modern tongue makes any sense. The Torah writers weren’t familiar with our post-Enlightenment concept of individual rights, after all. My personal pet peeve is when clergy start talking about “social justice.” Collective justice, like collective guilt, is bunk, and I’ve never heard anyone explain to my satifaction why they need that qualifier, “social”, except that they don’t really think in terms of the individual. Other folks, including conservatives, do this, too. The right-side tends to concentrate on collective punishments for groups, based on alleged sinning by a number of individuals they are composed of. A. Lincoln’s – I tremble for my country when I remember that god is just – is one example.

    So, when a free-market type wants to be charitable, he writes a check, or plans a fundraiser. Statist types do some of this, too, but they concentrate on convincing the government to expropriate funds for their pet purpose. If you can remember a “conservative” taking the second course, it is an instruction in the difference between a right-statist and a libertarian.

    Kevin

    (Libertarian atheist, too broke to give to charity. I blame high taxes.)

  8. Surprising proof that conservatives really are more compassionate–and more generous–than liberals

    Hard to tell if this is accurate or not – nothing in the Amazon piece indicates veracity. But the standard tack for many conservatives is that anyone who is not a conservative is automatically labeled a liberal. This typically includes many moderates AND many actual conservatives who happen to not share certain conservative view – especially as regards Christian conservatives.

    If the case is that the writer has drawn some arbitrary line of definition for conservatives vs liberals that places a large majority of uncommited moderates, working poor, actual poverty stricken types and just plain onld uninterested on the liberal side, then one would expect the “less ideologically entrenched” to be overshadowed (on a per capita basis) in the giving side.

    In other words, is he getting his results based on how narrowly he’s defined a “compassionate conservative” and how broadly he’s defined a liberal?

    Not saying it is, and I don’t know enough yet to evaluate. But just because “even he was surprised by what he found” doesn’t make his study or conclusions de facto truth.

    Be interesting to find out more in detail…but one book doesn’t alleviate my skepticism of “compassionate conservatism.”

  9. I’ve never heard anyone explain to my satifaction why they need that qualifier, “social”, except that they don’t really think in terms of the individual.

    That’s like saying “I’ve never heard anyone explain what 1+1 equals, except 2.”

  10. kevrob,

    you make some good points but the real difference between righties and lefties is that lefties want us to move toward a “just society” and righties believe we’re already there.

    It’s important to remember that concept of “social justice” includes a number of facets beyond poverty and workers rights.

    They include – but aren’t limited to – racial equality, gender equality, religious freedom, political freedom and civil liberties.

    Even if you don’t feel the government should fund the causes of social justice and the freedoms to which it aspires, shouldn’t the government at least ensure an environment where those freedoms can thrive.

    A lot of (so called) “conservatives” these days couldn’t give a shit about real freedoms or genuine justice – social or otherwise.

  11. They include – but aren’t limited to – racial equality, gender equality, religious freedom, political freedom and civil liberties. – madpad

    I don’t have a problem with this, except that I don’t trust the statists’ definitions of such terms. Let’s take “racial equality.” I’m all for “assuring equality before the law regardless of race,” but if the term means “equality of result, even if that means quotas for some racial minorities”, then, no, thank you. In a nutshell, there’s those who want to promote “negative liberty” and those who want to use power to get the result they think is “fair.”

    As I always tell the religious statists, “Peter, put up your sword.”

    Kevin
    (Can quote scripture to his own purposes.)

  12. In the more current versions of the transaltions of the Bible, the word charity is translated “love.” Do you feel like love and charity are the same things?

  13. Percentage who believe that we have become a society of haves and have-nots:
    Liberals 92% | Conservatives 51%

    Oh, for the good old days when such a distinction did not exist! Wait, exactly when was that, anyway…?

  14. “The blue state citizens make the Rousseauvian mistake of thinking humans are essentially good, and so they never realize when they are about to be slugged from behind.”

    It is so unfortunate that the popular opinion of Rousseau and what the man actually thought diverge so much.

  15. Emma: I was bored and curious, so I checked. The original Greek word is ????? (agape): love is almost certainly the better translation. The Greeks had different words for different kinds of love. ???? (eros) refers to erotic love (as in, I have ???? for my girlfriend-or at least I would if I had one). ????? (philos) is love or affection for one’s friends (I have ????? for my best friend-a very important distinction when I’m talking to her boyfriend). And ????? is brotherly love, the sort all good Christians are supposed to have for everyone. So a good Christian should have ????? for a murderer, but probably shouldn’t have ????? or ????.

    </pedantic classics student>

  16. True enough…but the practitioners of non-governmental racism had almost 100 years to get their heads out of their collective asses before someone came up with Affirmative Action as a means of getting around it.

    I don’t like the effects (or the intrinsic idea, for that matter) of quotas or entitlements any more than you do. But the Invisible Hand has no traction as a corrective force when prejudice trumps it.

    I don’t buy race nuetral policies (alone, anyway) as a solution because, frankly, it just hides the problem. Case in point – France’s own race-neutral policies (ironically designed to eliminate racism) mask very real racism problems in it’s own society.

    How are “result” oriented policies designed to arive at a (false) statistic correlation of equality – unrelated to actual merit – any worse than non-policies that ignore the fact that racist practices exist and allow an underclass to develop – again completely unrelated to actual merit.

    Got a solution that actually solves the problem rather than pretending it doesn’t exist?

  17. But the Invisible Hand has no traction as a corrective force when prejudice trumps it.

    Actually, that’s not entirely true. I recall that some economist back in the ’50s or ’60s showed that businesses that discriminated (“No negroes allowed”) did less well than businesses that didn’t. Although I suppose that’s also just common sense.

  18. madpad:

    Yes, I’m leery of the government putting a very Visible Thumb on the scales of justice, but I don’t oppose affirmative action completely. As originally understood, it was an executive order with the goal of reversing the outright segregation of Federal employment that had existed since at least Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, combined with affirmative efforts to recruit qualified minority candidates who would not have been considered for positions in the past due to their race. It was a move to “race neutrality” from a Jim Crow mindset.

    Also, as a pure free-marketer, I’d have no objection if a private outfit went further than the original version of AA, and set goals for the advancement of minorities that were not mandated by the government. Now, the reverse of this, that the same company might limit or ban minorities altogether is ugly and stupid. But nothing in my copy of the Constitution prevents private individuals from being ugly and stupid. As PapayaSF has shown, if the government isn’t enforcing Jim Crow, firms that stick with that will get punished by reality. They’ll miss out on good hires and may avoid profitable markets if they “don’t care to do business with those people.”

    We’ve had about 35 years of the government switching from an attempt at “race neutrality” to the more active type of Affirmative Action that started with Nixon’s Philadelphia Plan. It hasn’t eliminated prejudice, nor prevented the growth of an underclass. It has provided a good living for a bunch of race hustlers, anti-discrimination bureaucrats and shysters dreaming up the next fantastic “disparate impact” argument. I’d say it is just about time for the government to be neutral and see how that works.

    Kevin

    (Doesn’t believe that agape can be legislated.)

  19. I feel no compunction to “give back” seeing as how I never “took” in the first place.
    Do your calculations.
    Using the compounded value of money never taken, the folks from whom I never took it are all fabulously wealthy now, and I am pleased as punch.
    I have done my “work” (or lack thereof) here and am about to move on.
    Swing low, sweet chariot.

  20. Papaya sez: I recall that some economist back in the ’50s or ’60s showed that businesses that discriminated (“No negroes allowed”) did less well than businesses that didn’t.

    Yet they stayed open, and fought to retain that policy. That’s the point. It’s also one more reason why the ascention of civil rights and equallity of opportunity for minorities are so beneficial to the everyone in America: the sheer irrational inefficiency of it all.

    I’ve seen the figure $120 billion/year for the amount of money that is irrationally diverted away from black people because of racism. Maybe it’s not the correct number, but it’s probably reasonable close. If it’s even close to that, it’s a serious problem for the economy we’re all a part of.

  21. Percentage who believe that we have become a society of haves and have-nots:
    Liberals 92% | Conservatives 51%

    Percentage of income donated to charity-

    Al Gore- less than 0.3%

    Ned Lamont- less than 0.4%

    Democratic “haves” obviously need a “gun to the head” before they’ll consider actually helping the poor…

  22. Jadagul-actually, friend-type love is covered under “Philos,” better translated as “fraternal love.” This is why Philedelphia is “The City of Brotherly Love.” Agape is “Godly love,” originally literally love between Gods, but under Christianity the sort of love that supposedly led Christ to sacrifice himself for mankind. “Charity” and “Love” are both lousy translations for it, although Charity is much closer to the meaning intended by Paul when he wrote the Epistle to the Corinthians. “Joyful Sacrifice” would be good if it didn’t have a vaguely negative connotation, leading it not to fit well with the overall tone of the letter.

  23. Ah, I guess we’re interpreting “brotherly love” differently. You’ll note that I did say that “?????” is the love one has for one’s friends; when I said “brotherly love” I meant in the sense of “A good Christian should love all his brothers and sisters in Christ.” Since I’ve now located my copy of Lidell and Scott, I can be even more of a pedant: “?????” is given first as “loved, beloved, dear, Lat. amicus, carus…often as Subst., a friend.” “??&alpha:??” is “love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God, New Testament.” So L&S, who know what they’re talking about, like both “brotherly love” and “charity”; I just don’t think that “charity” invokes the same idea to us that it did to John. He didn’t mean dropping a couple denarii into the beggar’s cup on the way to church.

    Once again, sorry for the spiral off into random classics pedantry.

  24. Well, if we’re being pedantic, then it was Paul, not John. As for the translation, you’re right that “charity” in the modern sense doesn’t really fit, but neither does “love,” as such. Love implies, if not passivity then at least no real required action; a problem because ???:?? is supposed to lead one to take actions that are “Christ-like” in their daily life. “Charity” does carry this, but it carried it better in an earlier day, before charity got defined down to the point where any act of altruism was considered to be charitiable. As I said above, I think the term “Joyful Sacrifice” best describes the term which Paul used, but even that isn’t perfect.

    I’ll forgive you your classics pedantry if you’ll forgive my divinity pedantry. They spend a lot of time on stuff like this when you study the New Testament, and I don’t get much chance to show it off.

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