Private Charity or Government Programs?

by: Spencer Chretien

One important thing I’ve learned from my long time interest in politics is that overlooked issues, or issues that are taken for granted, can often present us with the best chance for effective activism and may offer the best opportunity for actual change. Debates on issues that tower over the national political environment–healthcare, taxes, guns, abortion, illegal immigration, and so on–already feature plenty of devoted promoters and die-hard activists. (I do not at all mean to dismiss political activists–I myself am an activist on tons of important issues.)What I do mean is that because of the nature of big issues that dominate political discourse, some other topics are disregarded or unnoticed. One of these is the relationship and differences between private charity and government programs. You don’t really hear politicians and opinion-makers talking about the need for a generous civic commitment to private charity. And that’s kind of the way we’d expect it to be: government has its role, and private charity has its own. Why should a politician tell voters to donate more to charity, when that means more people would get to claim larger deductions on their taxes, and therefore pay less to the government? If more people donated to charity, there’d be less money for politicians to spend on wasteful programs, the enormous welfare state, the government takeover of healthcare, and ridiculous “free” giveaways like Cash for Clunkers. There is and will always be competition between government programs and private charity. And government hates competition.Unfortunately, the well-represented people who want the government to do more and spend more are backed by powerful interest groups and millions of dollars. Those who prefer that problems be solved and people helped by the private sector, including charity, do not have the bully pulpit or the monopoly that government does. Additionally, charities compete with each other for money, and, by definition, devote relatively few resources to overhead. There is no influential “Association of Charities” that lobbies for the interests of charitable organizations on Capitol Hill.

Religious charities in particular are fodder for big government liberals. Not only do they compete with the government for our money, but their religious status also makes them targets for anyone who insists upon an extreme separation of church and state that allows for absolutely no interaction at all between religion and government, and therefore thinks they shouldn’t even be classified as charities. Under the Obama administration, this usual problem remains, but it’s exacerbated by policies like the contraception mandate in Obamacare. : (Ask the: Little Sisters of the Poor: about that.) There is also: some evidence: that gay marriage and religious liberty may be in conflict, and religious charities undoubtedly will be affected.

Conservatives should give as much as they can to private charities. It’s a great way for us to walk the walk. It’s a great way to fight big government liberalism. It helps religion secure a role in the public square. And, of course, it’s good to help people in need.: It makes you happy, too.

This blog post was originally published on: Counter Cultured’s: “Walk the Walk”: column.

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