Most of my adult life I've heard people stereotype conservatives as rich, greedy, and hard-hearted. The portrayal started with professors I had in college, some of whom I was personally close to, and continued among my professional colleagues during my early years in education. I continue to find the charge laid at conservatives' feet by liberal columnists and bloggers today.
But, like a lot of things I heard from my professors in college, this turned out to be quite the opposite of the truth. George Will explains why in this excellent article in the Washington Post to which my friend Byron called my attention.
Will quotes from a book by Arthur Brooks which we discussed at Viewpoint about a year and a half ago. Here's part of his column:
Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism." The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives.
If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:
-- Although liberal families' incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).
-- Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.
-- Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.
-- Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.
-- In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.
-- People who reject the idea that "government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality" give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.
Brooks demonstrates a correlation between charitable behavior and "the values that lie beneath" liberal and conservative labels. Two influences on charitable behavior are religion and attitudes about the proper role of government .... The single biggest predictor of someone's altruism ... is religion. It increasingly correlates with conservative political affiliations because, as Brooks' book says, "the percentage of self-described Democrats who say they have 'no religion' has more than quadrupled since the early 1970s." America is largely divided between religious givers and secular nongivers, and the former are disproportionately conservative.
As we noted in the earlier post, none of this should be understood to mean that conservatives are more generous than liberals. Both groups are generous, but the difference is that conservatives are generous with their own money whereas liberals are generous with other people's money.RLC