Charity: The Best Way to Shrink Government

A first-of-its-kind study by the Almanac of Philanthropy (that’s a great name, isn’t it?) recently uncovered the most charitable population on earth—the United States. That’s right, the American population outstrips all others in gifts to charity! Here are some of the numbers:

In a first of its kind survey, the Almanac found that Americans out-donate Britain and Canada two-to-one and nations like Italy and Germany 20-to-one. What’s more, more than half of every single income class except those earning less than $25,000 donate to charity.

The much maligned top 1 percent in the U.S. economy fork over one third of all donations made. Even in death.

Well, so much for the greedy one-percenters, right? Furthermore, self-labeled Democrats and Republicans both gave, though Democrats tended to give more numerous smaller gifts to charity and Republicans gave fewer but much larger gifts (Republicans give more money overall).

The real question will be, of course, why? I think the answer, quite simply, is the Scrooge Complex. Typically, when people think of Scrooge, they think of some penny-pinching capitalist Republican with a compassionless heart. That’s not entirely accurate, though. Check out this interchange between Scrooge and a private charity rep who came asking for a Christmas donation for the poor:

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh!  I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge.  “I’m very glad to hear it.”

Scrooge paid his taxes, and he expected the civil institutions that had been erected to deal with the poor to do their job without his further intervention or additional charity. Like so many liberals, he considered it the work of the civil government to provide for education, welfare, healthcare, etc. He thought that paying taxes freed him from personal responsibility.

I think this very reasoning explains why so many socialized countries have such poor records for voluntary, individual charity: the people in these countries believe their taxes comprise their charitable contributions for the poor. So they don’t give further.

But, what if we were to give even more? What if we were to be so generous that we made welfare, free healthcare, Social Security, and all the other similar failed government programs completely obsolete.

In other words, voluntary, individual charity is not just a feel-good thing to do around Christmas—it is a profound tool for limiting the powers and size of the civil government. May it increase even more!


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