Sunday, December 10, 2006

Who Really Cares?

Thomas Sowell writes:
More frightening than any particular beliefs or policies is an utter lack of any sense of a need to test those beliefs and policies against hard evidence. Mistakes can be corrected by those who pay attention to facts but dogmatism will not be corrected by those who are wedded to a vision.

One of the most pervasive political visions of our time is the vision of liberals as compassionate and conservatives as less caring. It is liberals who advocate "forgiveness" of loans to Third World countries, a "living wage" for the poor and a "safety net" for all.

The context for Sowell's article is the new book by Professor Arthur Brooks, entitled Who Really Cares?

Professor Brooks began his research expecting that those who were in favor of larger government would also give more money to charity. But he found the opposite to be the case. He found, for example, that households that were headed by a conservative gave, on average, about 30% more to charity than households that were headed by a liberal. (This is despite the fact that liberal households, on average, earn more than conservative ones.)

Sowell continues:

Fundamental differences in ideology go back to fundamental assumptions about human nature. Based on one set of assumptions, it makes perfect sense to be a liberal. Based on a different set of assumptions, it makes perfect sense to be a conservative.

The two visions are not completely symmetrical, however. For at least two centuries, the vision of the left has included a belief that those with that vision are morally superior, more caring and more compassionate.

While both sides argue that their opponents are mistaken, those on the left have declared their opponents to be not merely in error but morally flawed as well. So the idea that liberals are more caring and compassionate goes with the territory, whether or not it fits the facts.

Those on the left proclaimed their moral superiority in the 18th century and they continue to proclaim it in the 21st century. What is remarkable is how long it took for anyone to put that belief to the test -- and how completely it failed that test.

The two visions are different in another way. The vision of the left exalts the young especially as idealists while the more conservative vision warns against the narrowness and shallowness of the inexperienced. This study found young liberals to make the least charitable contributions of all, whether in money, time or blood. Idealism in words is not idealism in deeds.

By the way, some might wonder about my motivation in posting such information. Professor Brooks writes: "This book is a call to action for the left, not a celebration of the right." I'm interested in neither exhorting the left nor encouraging the right--rather, I'm more concerned that we follow Sowell's counsel and stop believing mainstream-media mantras that are disconnected from reality.