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Conservatism and greed

Posted by Chance on April 15, 2009

There is a debate on another blog concerning conservatives vs. liberals when it comes to giving, both voluntarily and through government.  I mentioned something about studies showing that conservatives give more than liberals, and dolphin brought up a good point about how a large portion of that giving is probably involved in the church.

Anyway, I don’t want to get into a whizzing contest about who gives more or anything like that.  The basic idea I want to get across is that conservatism is not motivated by greed, or not necessarily anyway.  In the same way that people who care about civil liberties and spying aren’t that way because they are planning to build explosives, or that people who believe in drug legalization just want to snort coke, etc… Economic conservatives are not necessarily greedy people who never want to give a dime to other people.

There are many reasons that conservatives believe in less welfare and lower taxes.  For one, they believe there is more value in voluntary giving, both for the giver and receiver.  The giver has the opportunity to be involved in a charitable act and demonstrate love toward other people, including complete strangers.  The receiver is more likely to appreciate what is given to them and see it less as an entitlement.

Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, or at least implied, is that tax rates are a symbol and an effect of government that encroaches upon more and more of our lives.

This doesn’t mean I believe in no welfare or social programs whatsoever.  I don’t think there would be enough voluntary charity to take care of every single person who needed it.  Some libertarians believe in complete elimination of any such programs, but I’m not at that point and don’t think I will be.

Anyway, this post is not intended as a persuasiave piece; no one has to buy what I’m selling, I just want to illustrate the idea that conservatives don’t believe in low taxes and less government simply because they are mean and want more money for their BMWs and swimming pools.

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9 Responses to “Conservatism and greed”

  1. Neil said

    If you give away your money, that is charity.

    If you give away other people’s money at the point of a gun, that is not charity. You may argue that it is good pubic policy, but under no circumstances is anyone in the equation being charitable. And make no mistake, if you don’t pay your taxes the government will take your property and/or your freedom — and by force, if necessary.

    Government has a role in helping people but it should be limited. As soon as they provide help it isn’t charity but a “right.” People have no reason to be grateful for what is rightfully theirs, so government excess hurts charity in many ways.

    • dolphin said

      I’m not sure that I agree that government provided help becomes a “right.” Now a strict Libertarian may argue that the government SHOULDN’T provide anything to its citizens that it is not their “right” to have, but something doesn’t become a “right” just because it comes from the government. Even some of the more basic provisions of the government aren’t RIGHTS. Do you have a right to paved roads? No, or else some hermit who builds his house in the middle of the woods would have the right to demand that the government builds a paved road way out to his house. Such things aren’t “rights,” just things that we as a society have decided are a worthwhile cause to pool our resources for.

    • Chance said

      It doesn’t become a “right” in a strict philosophical sense, but it can be viewed as a “right” from the perspective of the particular person receiving that good.

  2. Neil said

    This link has a lot of stats relative to giving by Christians vs. others — http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com/2009/04/are-atheists-healthy-happy-moral-etc.html

    Some argue that giving to your church is just like giving to yourself, as if it is just your social club. That ignores the donations that flow out from the church and organizations like World Vision that are funded primarily by Christians.

    • dolphin said

      I find it difficult to believe some would argue that a church is NOT a social club of sorts. Do churches do good? Sure they do, but if a church only used the monies it received for charitable work, it would by definition cease to be a church and become a charity/outreach regardless of it’s religious bend.

      I don’t argue that it’s bad to give to your church, only that making a one-for-one comparison of giving to your church and giving to a charity is dishonest.

  3. Dan Trabue said

    Some argue that giving to your church is just like giving to yourself, as if it is just your social club. That ignores the donations that flow out from the church and organizations like World Vision that are funded primarily by Christians.

    Typically less than 10%, at least in every church I’ve ever heard of. Actually, 10% might be rather generous.

    SO, if you want to make the argument that studies show that conservatives give more to non-profits, do so. Just recognize that only a small percentage of most church moneys go to help the poor or needy.

    Which is not knocking churches. I go to one, after all, and we need money to operate and that’s a good thing. I’m just noting that it’s a different sort of charitable giving when one gives to their church than what we tend to think of when we talk about “charity.”

    • Chance said

      Typically less than 10%, at least in every church I’ve ever heard of. Actually, 10% might be rather generous.
      I would agree with that, I don’t know the numbers for my own church, but if it was 10% I don’t think they would ever worry about money.

  4. Dan Trabue said

    According to a Christianity Today report:

    Conducted in 1999, this survey of U.S. pastors finds that most churches spend most money on staff compensation ($118,601 from an average budget of $292,790). This is followed by facilities ($54,194), missions ($45,259), church programs ($24,675), administration and supplies ($17,853), denominational contributions and fees ($11,539) and miscellaneous ($25,430).

    If $45,000 out of $300,000 goes towards “missions,” that’s about 12% if my math is right. Now, “missions,” very often take place in poorer locales, but still, only a portion of that money goes toward alleviating physical needs, right? I’d suspect that most of it goes toward evangelical ends. I suspect that the average church budget probably has less than 5% of its money going to help the poor or needy.

    So, given that, I’m just not convinced that the more conservative give more to the needy than the more liberal. Do you suspect otherwise?

  5. Chance said

    I’m not trying to make the case that conservatives give more to needy causes than liberals, I’m just trying to make the case that conservatives aren’t all greedy or are necessarily less generous than liberals just because of their beliefs concerning government.

    In the pinged post a commenter said that the Christians he knew did not believe in voluntarily handouts; they basically had the attitude that poor people were on their own, both in the governmental sense and voluntary sense. That’s why I brought up the study that I did ( I didn’t refer to it directly but it was the Arthur Brooks study from a year or two back). http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/3447051.html provides a link to some of his work; I haven’t seriously scrutinized it, my only point is that many conservatives believe in giving, just through non-governmental avenues.

    Even if it did turn out that conservatives gave more or “a lot” according to some people, no one has anything to hang their hat on. A person’s giving is between them and God, but the Christian body as a whole doesn’t give even close to the proper proportion based on what a prosperous country we are.

    Again, I’m not interested in any sort of measuring contest between liberals and conservatives, I just want to illustrate that when a conservative says they believe giving should be primarily done apart from government, that they put their money somewhat where their mouth is. That doesn’t alone validate their philosophy or invalidate liberal philosophy, it is just a shield against accusations I have often heard toward conservatives.

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