In the NYTimes, Nicholas Kristof asks why leftists give less to charity [h/t Instapundit] than do those on the Right. Why do the people who collectively advocate redistributing wealth from producers to the poor donate so little as individuals to the same cause?
I think the reason simple: Leftism isn’t about compassion. Leftism is about control. Leftism is about freeing the individual from personal responsibility for anything, including charity.
Redistribution via government coercion enhances the power of leftists in two ways: First, it takes from the productive segments of society, reducing their freedom of action and forcing them them to kowtow to leftists in order to try to avoid even harsher confiscation. Second, it creates a large population of individuals who depend on leftists for the necessities of life. A poor person in America today relies on government for food, shelter, jobs, medical care, transportation, etc. They can’t be defined as “free” in any meaningful sense.
The surest indicator of leftist true motives can be seen in the specific mechanism they seek to employ to redistribute wealth to the poor. Whenever possible, they employ a centrally managed system that takes the power of choice out of the hands of beneficiaries, and they wage open warfare on any type of redistribution mechanism that might let beneficiaries make their own independent choices. For example, leftists oppose voucher systems across the board. Voucher systems seem like the ideal solution. People get the money they need for things like health care, education or housing, and they have to spend on the need mandated but still retain personal choice and benefit from the efficiency and flexibility of the free market.
Yet, leftists oppose vouchers-based redistribution with a passion. They base their arguments against vouchers almost entirely on the premise that individual citizens are simply too stupid to make their own decisions about their own lives. Instead, they advocate systems in which benevolent leftists will use other people’s money to force others to behave as the leftists wish.
Coerced redistribution also allows individual leftists to escape personal responsibility for making the world a better place. To receive accolades and garner self-respect a leftist doesn’t have to do anything more than verbalize support for the leftist cause du jour. If I were a leftist, I would feel that merely by writing this blog post (on a different subject, naturally), I would have engaged in an actual compassionate act. I could feel as good about myself as someone who, you know, actually helped another human being. Leftists off-load their responsibilities to care for others onto the state, leaving themselves free to pursue a narcissistic lifestyle with a clear conscience.
For the religious conservative, charity and community involvement become matters of deep personal obligation. They believe that each individual must account for their own efforts to make the world a better place. They don’t believe they can “outsource” that obligation to a third party. Secular leftists, by contrast, don’t even talk about their own personal, individual obligation to devote their own resources to help others. Instead, they blame everyone else for the evils of the world and demand that those people sacrifice.
Leftism always comes back to the power, status and freedom from responsibility of the leftist. Actually writing checks to the poor, serving on juries, being foster parents, donating blood, etc. don’t contribute to their power, status or freedom from responsibility, so they don’t bother.