Study: Red states more disposed to charitable giving than blue states

posted at 2:41 pm on August 20, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

According to a new survey of tax data by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, it appears that red states are much more prone to charitable donations than blue states — interesting, but not at all surprising when you think about it. Politico reports:

The eight states whose residents gave the highest share of their income — Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, Arkansas and Georgia — all backed McCain in 2008. Utah leads charitable giving, with 10.6 percent of income given.

And the least generous states — Wisconsin, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire — were Obama supporters in the last presidential race. New Hampshire residents gave the least share of their income, the Chronicle stated, with 2.5 percent.

I’m always astounded by the degree to which people often accuse free enterprise of bringing out the worst aspects of humanity, such as ‘greed’ — but human ‘greed’ (which I personally prefer to call rational self-interest) is a fact of life, and only through government can people enforce their ‘greedy’ compulsions through fiat. In a free market, people’s ‘greed’ can only survive when they provide products and services that other people freely want, rather than whatever it is the government deems is good for them.

Looking at it that way, the discrepancy between charitable giving between red states and blue states makes sense. Liberals tend to see the government as a force for good and as the means of distributing fairness, and therefore rely on the government more to do so — while conservatives are more about taking matters into their own hands. As the study’s authors noted, “the reasons for the discrepancies among states, cities, neighborhoods are rooted in part in each area’s political philosophy about the role of government versus charity,” and in turn “religion has a big influence on giving patterns.” People don’t need government to motivate or force them to do good things, and it seems to me that putting your faith in something other than the power of the state can be a much more efficient and powerful motivator.

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