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Monday, November 30, 2009

A Response to My Conservative Contradiction Observation

This is a response to a comment I got on Facebook from my last post. I'm responding it here so I can manage it better.

Not that so many (or any?) people read this so that I will be getting flooded with confused people emailing me or anything! :)


So, I took a look at the Arthur Brooks links.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123258358706104403.html

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/03/conservatives_more_liberal_giv.html
(Oh no! Not realclear! :) ... Just kidding. )

He tries to appear impartial, but in reading some of the links you gave, he seems to have an agenda after all. He has even said he has registered Democrat and Republican in one decade and is Independent and was raised by liberal university professors in order to distance himself from the right. However, I think he’s more conservative than he lets on…

This quote made me chuckle, but it’s so true. Conservative coming out party.
From : http://philanthropy.com/free/articles/v19/i04/04001101.htm

"This book is a call to action for the left, not a celebration of the right," Mr. Brooks says.

“That's a claim that some liberals may have a tough time believing, given Mr. Brooks's withering criticism in the book of liberal icons like Ralph Nader, Mr. Brooks's work for The Wall Street Journal's famously conservative op-ed page, and a promotional tour for the book that reads like a conservative coming-out party. There's a keynote address at a Manhattan Institute for Policy Research dinner, a book signing at the American Enterprise Institute, and an interviews with John Stossel of ABC's 20/20 and radio talk-show host Michael Medved — two people known for conservative views.”

Another quote from the article:
Few economists have focused on philanthropy, he says, leaving plenty of "low-hanging fruit" for a young scholar.

And I would say that there may well be a lot of low-hanging fruit, but it also means this sort of thing won’t have as many studies to challenge it (numbers, method of gathering “data”, which data is selected, etc) either which is quite beneficial for Brooks' message, obviously. I’d like to see how it stands up to future criticism by experts in his field(s), should this field get more focus.

***

Now back to my response to the Brooks links...

You said:
"I was thinking about your statement of "...being strongly against other legislation and programs with Biblical support, for example, to help the poor..." and wondered if you were aware of the work of Arthur Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University. Liberals have a well-polished marketing machine duping millions into buying into their "advocacy" for the less fortunate but the numbers don't support it.
(quite a generalization by the way) :)

I suppose it is liberal “advocacy” to some in the same way the Republican party is all about “values”….

A glaring problem is the numbers. I have quite a number of issues with where these numbers are coming from. If they just call people up and they provide a figure and that’s it, I have
no confidence in this “data” whatsoever. Not that people are trying to mislead, but they forget, estimate, thought they gave more, etc. If tax deduction info are used, are conservatives just better than liberals about reporting it and getting their tax refund? The tax deduction still leaves out people who give and don’t take the deduction, choose lower paying jobs/careers that help people- nonprofits, providing low cost medical care, etc-. Volunteering and such is in fact touched on, but I’ll go into that in a sec. And what sorts of charities were included? He mentions a symphony orchestra in the WSJ article, but did he include environmental causes or animal shelters? Or were they primarily ones that actually help people like soup kitchens and rescue missions and such? The numbers need to be solid and more comprehensive for this to be anything more than fluff.

***
This is one of my suspicions (highlighted by the quote from this other article), that the high conservative number was due to church offerings and to see how much of that goes to actually helping people in need rather than the building, you’d have to examine thousands of church budgets.

“According to Google’s figures, if donations to all religious organizations are excluded, liberals give slightly more to charity than conservatives do.”

And to beat you to the punch, the following sentence in the article (possibly refuting it) is this:

“But Mr. Brooks says that if measuring by the percentage of income given, conservatives are more generous than liberals even to secular causes.”

Quotes are from: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html?_r=1&em


And to this I’d have to ask about the numbers again. Did they just ask them or ask for a pay stub or some type of proof? Are the incomes a national average of some sort- hard data or verbal- or specifically for the sample talked about in the piece? Are things like number of dependents, percentage of disposable income, etc accounted for?

***

You said:
Good article on why govt. spending is not a form of charity, as some lefties like to argue:”

Here's the link you were talking about:
http://www.facebook.com/l/3cc63;www.arthurbrooks.net/whoreallycares/excerpt.html


I’m not arguing that, hopefully. Poverty is the problem and some would like to see minimal government help and more private giving and others see a definite role for government in addition to private giving. Corruption will be a problem in govt or private agencies, but shouldn’t stop us from trying to help people however we can. I don't think people are necessarily arguing that govt spending is charity, but rather govt intervention with private giving or a primarily private approach are two different ways to "solve" the problem. Some think there is absolutely and black and white wrong and right on this, but it could be there are just two different approaches. Americans tend to give more than Europeans, but is that because we're more generous (or more religious) or we feel the need to give more because we know the government won't do much of anything compared to Europe's governments.

The link did include some info about accounting for volunteering which I was a question that came to mind, but left the data issue unresolved. Some of the non-monetary "data" was phrased like this: "Liberal young Americans in 2004 were also significantly less likely than the young conservatives to express a willingness to sacrifice for their loved ones: A lower percentage said they would prefer to suffer than let a loved one suffer, that they are not happy unless the loved one is happy, or that they would sacrifice their own wishes for those they love." That really doesn’t mean much of anything in terms of hard data since what you know you should do and what you do can differ. Maybe liberals would do more than they say and conservatives know what's right but wouldn't do it when push came to shove. Maybe conservatives really are more compassionate. Even with Brooks' work, we still don't know that. I don't know that he asked the right questions, gathered the right numbers, and backed it up with solid proof. I don't even know that this is remotely possible given the number of factors that can influence non-scientific things like this. Maybe your point was that my stereotype of the right was wrong. It could very well be, but I don't think Brooks proved anything one way or the other.

He addresses blood donation and being a member of “organizations” (rotary, ruritan, etc?) and says that conservatives are better at that, too. I’m guessing the latter are clubs that I wouldn’t necessarily consider charitable organizations with a narrow mission to help those in need (like homeless shelters), but they do do some charity work- or some do more than others...

This could be more urban/rural than liberal/conservative differences since small towns (the real America, as Palin liked to say) tend to have more of these types of organizations and community inclusive events sponsored by the organizations in a way larger towns don’t (I can see this difference in Oxford and Durham even though Durham isn’t huge and you can still find things to get involved in in Durham and larger cities; they still aren't as accessible and present, providing the only entertainment in town, in the same way as they are in small towns).

You say the liberals have a well-oiled marketing machine, but due to the lack of solid data this might qualify as just that for conservatives!

People say numbers don't lie, but there are so many ways to compile those numbers that you can make it say what you want, even if you don't really mean to overtly manipulate it. I see plenty of room for error in Brooks' survey, but I will agree that it is interesting. I look forward to more studies on this subject. Maybe.

Another thought...
Trying to uncover who is more generous liberals or conservatives may seem equivalent to trying to figure out who is applying that Biblical principle better. A big problem with this, however, is people actually have to come forth and declare their good works to get the hard data to make a solid report which tramples another Biblical principle - humility... Yet another factor to consider... A conclusive report gets further and further away...

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