We all know the standard tropes by now: liberals are compassionate and empathetic. Liberals care about people and their well-being. What’s more, they believe everyone deserves a helping hand and a base level of comfort.
Conservatives, on the other hand, are defined by social Darwinism. People should fend for themselves and if they can’t hack it, too bad so sad. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps or don’t, we don’t care.
At least, that’s the impression you get from watching movies and TV, or spending any time on a college campus.
And yet, study after study routinely shows that conservatives give more to charity than liberals. Why is that?
Is it because conservatives are really the good guys and liberals are selfish charlatans? I’d like to think so. It’s always nice to be the hero of the story and face off against self-serving hypocrites. Limousine liberals like Michael Moore, John Kerry, and Nancy Pelosi come to mind.
Calling liberals stingy certainly sets up a nice comparison that puts conservatives at the top of the caring Olympics. But I think there’s something more at work here that points to a deeper issue.
I truly believe both sides want to help the less fortunate. The difference is in who does the helping.
I think conservatives give more to charity because we believe it is our responsibility. Part of this likely comes from the religious imbalance between left and right. Religion teaches us we have a duty to God to support our fellow man. But part of it also comes from our political worldview that says everyone has an individual responsibility, both to themselves and to others.
Liberals, on the other hand, are defined by the collective. They want to help the less fortunate as well, but they want to do it with their tax dollars through the government. This approach absolves them from the need to make individual contributions. They can tell themselves they help feed the homeless with each paycheck. And yet there’s something not quite right about it.
I think it is fair to say liberals consider support for the downtrodden to be at the center of their political philosophy. I would vehemently disagree with them over their methods, but they clearly believe their policies will help people, just like I believe my conservative policies will help people.
The difference is the collective nature of the liberal philosophy causes them to surrender their own agency and responsibility. They don’t need to help the poor or the sick, because they will pass laws ensuring the government does it. They don’t need to donate clothing, food, or money because that’s what they pay taxes for. Liberals will loudly proclaim their demand that they be forced to help others, but don’t feel as much need to do so on their own.
It’s a strange case of letting their philosophy get in the way of their ideals.
This is the less discussed consequence of big government. There is a library worth of articles explaining the myriad ways an overbearing government punishes and prevents people from doing good and valuable work – from banning feeding the homeless without a food inspection to shutting down religiously motivated shelters.
But big government also discourages individuals from even attempting to help their fellow man by telling them it’s not their job. Everything becomes the state’s responsibility.
Big government is so powerful it can convince people who proudly declare they have the biggest hearts that they have no need to act on their deeply held beliefs. While tempting, this is not a time to mock liberal hypocrisy. This is a time to be fully aware of the corrupting influence the government plays in society, and rededicate ourselves to shrinking it. It’s the charitable thing to do.