Saturday, December 17, 2011

Heavily taxed secularists are not very generous

In human relations, at the corner of religion and politics, there lies personal responsibility. For some of us, that corner does not exist exactly, rather it is metaphysics (worldview) and politics. Either way, at that intersection, personal responsibility and self reliance are among the most highly prized virtues among libertarians. Libertarians invariably prefer that people in trouble deal with their own problems or seek voluntary help rather than accept legislated handouts. Libertarians prefer donation to taxation. Many people mistake this attitude among libertarians as being cold and uncaring, but it is more likely an aversion to coercion. Most libertarians regard voluntary donation as their own personal responsibility, helping those that need help in any way they can. Libertarians also believe, that when people are coerced to give, they end up feeling and acting less generously. There is evidence for this.

The Fraser Institute publishes an annual report called "Generosity in Canada and the United States - The 2011 Generosity Index." The report lists the 64 States, Provinces and Territories that comprise the United States and Canada. These two countries that have a great deal in common, with some subtle (and not so subtle) differences that make this a valid comparison.
The Canadian Provinces do not fare well in this comparison. All the Canadian Provinces and Territories are in among the bottom 27 positions out of total 64.  Quebec has the lowest average charitable donation in local dollars with $606 in 2009, while the average amount given in South Dakota in the same year was $7580, a huge difference. In a measure that Fraser Institute calls the "generosity index," Utah ranks as the most generous, number 1 out of 64, while Quebec is 59, Ontario ranked as 46 of 64. So whats going on here?

One of the not so subtle differences between the two countries is that the US is generally more religious than Canada, and likely the most secular of the Canadian provinces is now Quebec. Utah, on the other hand has a large percentage of Mormons that may still practice tithing. Many religions make charity an obligatory part of being faithful. So religion may account for American generosity, though I think Americans are generous by nature. What I don't get is this recent article by someone that clearly hates Ayn Rand, calling Americans greedy etc. They most certainly are among the world's most generous people, as this article posted on the same day as the previous one indicates.

In the National Post, a recent column by Barbara Kay recognizes the religious differences between the two countries. But she goes one step further: "Big governments assign all responsibility for social justice to the state. Smaller governments assign some responsibility to the state and some to the individual. Statism dampens the impulse to be generous at an individual level." Quebec is both secular and has big government, maybe that's why this relatively rich province is so stingy with its donations?

Ms. Kay ends up with: "Taking personal responsibility for alleviating the sufferings of others is the mark of a mature individual. Statism tends to suffocate the blessing of empathy. Statism promotes civic immaturity. One more in a long litany of reasons for working to bring down the size of government." I could not agree more.  

1 comment:

  1. It's certainly true for me, a U.S. citizen. In response to the actions of the Obama administration, I vowed never to make another voluntary contribution to community, charity, non-profit, or other venture, so long as government force continues to be applied in any area, making me act against my will. It is one or the other -- either I get to choose how to conduct my life or I don't, and I will not continue to help prop up the illusion that I live in a free country with liberty, so long as force continues to be used.

    Any individual and organization that accept government favors and handouts is supporting this use of force, and in so doing, is contributing to the enslavement of others. Do not expect me to aid you in your efforts to destroy me. I encourage others to adopt a similar stance.

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