Do liberals and conservatives differ on caring and compassion?

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Liberals have long held that they are more caring, more compassionate than others, especially conservatives. This often is offered as the moral rock underpinning liberal policies, and to many liberals these are the only policies that matter. To them, fervent caring is related to the notion that, morally, they walk on water. Some make it clear that they occupy the highest moral plane.

Lately, however, accumulated evidence contradicts this more caring, more compassionate belief, causing one to re-examine the question: Who are the more compassionate?

First, note that scientifically measuring intensity of emotional feelings of compassion for comparison between two humans remains out of the question. But researchers are working on it. With direct measures beyond reach, we must rely on indirect evidence that certain tests may provide. In doing so, we ask what response would people provide to various questions.

Using this approach, results obtained by Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, were reported in The Wall Street Journal in 2010. A large sample of people was asked to identify themselves as either favoring more redistribution of income, or against it. When asked, however, how much they gave to private charities, those in the anti-redistribution group reported giving a surprising 400 percent more than those in the redistribution group reported giving.

The overall media speculation on this topic had led us to expect the opposite result. These findings are surprising.

But, you say, suppose the sample contained a large proportion of wealthy, high-income people. Would not this bias the numbers and give these results? Moreover, you ask, wouldn’t the tax deductibility of charitable donations also bias the results?

HOWEVER, WHEN THE responses were counted holding incomes at given levels – i.e., holding income constant – the same results were obtained. In other words, adjusting for income, people against redistribution reported giving more to charity than did redistributionists.

And since income is being held constant, the relationship between donations and attitude toward redistribution is not affected by tax deductibility of the donations. That is to say, the same relationship between giving and attitude toward redistribution apparently occurs even among low- income, non-taxpaying citizens.

Remarkably, this same result is obtained even when we hold constant education, age and religion. Moreover, this disparity is not motivated by religion. Against-redistribution respondents gave about 350 percent more to charity than redistributionists, holding religion constant.

This strong preference for private charity, which holds over a range of cultural traits, represents an important difference between voluntary and involuntary giving. These two types of transfer are not of equal quality. Income transfers to the needy via taxation are involuntary transfers; private giving is voluntary.

In terms of personal satisfaction, there is a vast gap between these two forms of giving. The former is impersonal with no need for a showing of gratitude from the recipient; after all, the income transfer is an entitlement, a right with no chance for a warm personal relationship to appear between grantor and grantee. Voluntary donations, coming from the heart, are more personal, with the donor able to see sincere gratitude in the smile, or in the eyes of the recipient. This warms the heart of the giver. There is no way to transfer this warmth to taxation. Indeed, the human touch is almost completely lost with involuntary giving.

Redistribution, or involuntary transfers, goes beyond welfare that serves basic needs. While still anchored to compassion, redistribution is based on the presumptive notion of a voter, say Mr. A, believing that his neighbor, Mr. B,, should share some of his income with an unknown Mr. C., which may include Mr. A as a special case.

Inevitably, ambitious politicians will seize upon this preference and use it as a vehicle to propel themselves to power, to personal glory, to fame and even fortune, along with a law that captures this belief. Journalists often throw the mantle of public service over this type of activity.

INTUITIVELY, ONE WOULD expect a close association between anti-redistribution and conservative ideologists, and a similar nexus between liberals and redistributionists. Evidence of these connections was found in Arthur C. Brooks’ study 2006 titled Who Really Cares? There, it is stated that in 2000, holding income constant, conservative household heads gave 30 percent more to charities than liberal heads. Since this calculation was adjusted for income as well, it holds for all income levels.

We have no evidence, direct or indirect, that liberals are more compassionate and caring than those who profess to be against income redistribution. But if conservatives are more caring than liberals, we would expect to observe conservatives sharing more of their income with charities, regardless of income levels, than liberals.

But as just noted, they indeed paid 30 percent more. Their associated brethren, who oppose redistribution, paid out 400 percent more to charities than redistributionists.

Even though charitable contributions are tax-deductible, and conservatives tend to occupy higher income levels, these results are obtained despite the fact that conservatives may reduce current cash charitable giving corresponding to some portion of their income taxes paid.

They realize that a significant portion of total entitlement spending is paid by their taxes before current personal charitable contributions.

Caring for the needy is manifested in liberal support of redistribution policies and steeply progressive taxes in every conceivable form – and since those who pay the bulk of income and estate taxes are the wealthy, liberals make certain they do most of the heavy lifting.

Overall, this leads to the important conclusion that a hitherto unrecognized and unappreciated mountain of goodwill, of altruism, resides among both factions – people who speak with their hearts through their checkbooks.

(The writer is a professor emeritus of financial economics at the University of Georgia. He lives in Aiken, S.C.)

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burninater
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burninater 09/22/13 - 01:00 am
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The thesis of this article

The thesis of this article may or may not be correct -- it is difficult to tell, as Dr. Baranek has falsely represented his supporting evidence. Arthur C. Brooks' 2010 Wall Street Journal article about redistribution and giving is linked here --

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870477460457603601017491106...

Contrary to Dr. Baranek's claim, these were not "results obtained by Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute ... reported in The Wall Street Journal in 2010". They were results obtained not by Mr. Brooks, but by the General Social Survey. Also, they were obtained in 1996, not 2010 -- the data were, actually, fourteen years out of date when Mr. Brooks used them. Now, when Dr. Baranek uses them, they are both falsely attributed AND, unlike his insinuation that the data are only three years old, seventeen years out of date.

This raises two questions -- 1) what does it say about current attitudes that Arthur C. Brooks needed to use data 14 years out of date to substantiate his claim, and 2) why does Dr. Baranek need to further falsify the basis of this column? Does being professor emeritus mean you no longer are subject to ethical academic reporting? Why can't the good doctor make his case without lying? Very strange.

grouse
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grouse 09/22/13 - 04:18 am
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In any event, the American
Unpublished

In any event, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, and the Wall Street Journal, owned by Murdock, can hardly be called unbiased...

Riverman1
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Riverman1 09/22/13 - 07:28 am
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Burn, Unfair

Burn, that’s unfair. You said, "Contrary to Dr. Baranek's claim, these were not "results obtained by Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute ... reported in The Wall Street Journal in 2010". They were results obtained not by Mr. Brooks, but by the General Social Survey. Also, they were obtained in 1996, not 2010 -- the data were, actually, fourteen years out of date when Mr. Brooks used them. Now, when Dr. Baranek uses them, they are both falsely attributed AND, unlike his insinuation that the data are only three years old, seventeen years out of date."

What Dr. Baranek actually said: “Evidence of these connections was found in Arthur C. Brooks’ study 2006 titled Who Really Cares? There, it is stated that in 2000, holding income constant, conservative household heads gave 30 percent more to charities than liberal heads.”

The facts are in his book, “Who Really Cares?” Brooks gives full credit to the MANY studies he used in HIS study. Dr. Baranek says Brooks “obtained the results” you mention in addition to much more. The article published in the Wall Street Journal was in 2010 and they quoted the 2006 book using that one study from 1996. That’s not unusual.

Stop attacking the messenger. Show me something that says something different than conservatives being more generous.

freeradical
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freeradical 09/22/13 - 07:47 am
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A False Premise

The false mechanistic premise that Liberals and Conservatives have

rationalized in their pea-brains is that the key to human joy and

well being is temporal in the handing out of mammon as reward

for sucking wind .

I have to give them points for selling this affliction disguised as healing

balm .

Of course it is not that hard of a sell to the carnal mind .

This is actually the dynamic for death in a an able bodied young person.

Supplanting life courageously lived , with enabled existence void

of responsibilities and freedom is nothing more than putting a gun to

that person's head .

Lord knows the stark results of over a trillion dollars spent doing this

since the great society ought to be fodder enough for the soft headed

intellectuals to discern that something is not right .

But this failure to appreciate what has been the result serves to reveal

the true motivation behind the desire to keep re-applying lipstick to

this pig .

In truth the public show of overflowing compassion is a smokescreen

for their own vile and vacant lives .

It is no different than a man posing himself publically as a wonderful

caring compassionate family man , while secretly in the dark he has

been screwing around on her , and contemplating abandoning his

family .

The public dog and pony compassion show is not about the " poor "

at all , it never has been . Human nature does not change that much .

It is all about me , me , me .

Nothing has changed since the day Jesus watched the poor widow drop her

two mites in the treasury.

Today's parade of public pontificating blowhards are just as bewildered

as today . not a clue as to why their "seed" won't take root in minds

they have cultivated to be just as full of grim , dry , dead cracks as

their own , while the widow's two paltry mites , not even worth a

press conference mind you , produces a hundred fold .

The perfect way to kill someone , and never be charged with any

criminal violation is to give them a million dollars .

In fact it would be kinder , and much more compassionate to just

go ahead and shoot them instead .

But if you really want them to suffer , give them a million dollars .

There is a twofold reason why the Bill Gates & Warren Buffets of the

world advocate massive taxes and redistribution for everyone else

while only bequeathing a paltry sum to their own children .

The first most important half is of course the public show of their

morality , void of humility as it may be .

The second half is much more revealing and puts their true beliefs on

display.

Even the most carnal of men can love their children enough to never

do to them what they advocate being to those they really don't care

about .

The sum of happiness can never be calculated in dollars .

And society will never learn this truth .

" So then let us follow after things which make for peace ,
and things whereby we may edify one another ."
( Romans 14:19 )

ymnbde
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ymnbde 09/22/13 - 09:10 am
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burninater, liberals are quite generous

with other people's money...
and you write the typical message of the wrong
you enlarge then attack insignificant molehills
but the non-ignorant know this, and i doubt you're capable of feeling shame
for your own poorly constructed lies
liberals give not just my money to causes detrimental to a free society
they steal almost half of my actual time, in labor
they've passed the point where it could be considered bondage
liberals... they've spent over a trillion dollars of other peoples money
and failed, utterly failed
their time is past

nocnoc
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nocnoc 09/22/13 - 09:32 am
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Every Poll or Survey I have seen todate

clearly shows Conservatives beat Liberals in Donations by double digits, to Charities WHEN USING THEIR OWN $$$$..

However, Liberals beat Conservatives hand down, when it comes to giving OTHER PEOPLES $$$$$ away, $$$$ other than their own.

This is not a political statement it has been documented over and over.

deestafford
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deestafford 09/22/13 - 09:32 am
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Once again the good doctor is right on point.

If memory serves me right data show that the most giving sections of the country to charity as far a percentages of income is the South, with Mississippi being the most generous in the country, and the least charitable is the Northeast. As has been stated liberals love giving away other peoples money.

The closer the taker is to the giver the more the interpersonal relationship is. If a person gets charity from his church or neighborhood he is going to be face to face with them and will most likely try to improve his circumstances so that he no longer needs the charity. If it comes from the faceless government there is no "shame" and desire to get off the dole.

A good argument can be made that the "compassion" of the liberals has been the most destructive economic force in the country today. As a result of their ''compassion'' there are more ''poor" today and more money spent on the "poor" today than by any country at any time in history.

chascushman
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chascushman 09/22/13 - 09:47 am
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'Burn, that’s
Unpublished

'Burn, that’s unfair.'
riverman, liberals believe the end justifies the means the truth has nothing to do with it.

TrukinRanger
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TrukinRanger 09/22/13 - 10:00 am
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Apparently it doesn't matter
Unpublished

Apparently it doesn't matter what the topic of discussion is for the day, it always comes to the same fight. Right wing [filtered word]s try and make themselves feel better by saying they do more for the people than the liberals. In today's letter it doesn't say that the majority of the liberals are on a smaller pay scale that the right wingers but at least have the compassion that that they do not. I'm sure if you pulled up the dates of the right wingers contributions come right around tax time so they can have additional deductions on their taxes. It's also the same time of year they drop of last years designer fashions at the salvation army or other charities just so they can get the same write off and stroke their egotistic minds.

chascushman
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chascushman 09/22/13 - 10:04 am
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'A good argument can be made
Unpublished

'A good argument can be made that the "compassion" of the liberals has been the most destructive economic force in the country today.'
deestafford, we are being a little too hard on liberals. Today progressives, socialist, Marxist and communist are masquerading as liberals. The lying, racist, Marxist/communist in the WH is a good example. they have taken over the democrat party. this started in 60s and 70s.

deestafford
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deestafford 09/22/13 - 10:19 am
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chas

You're right. I should have been more "inclusive" (one of today's liberal/progressive/socialist/ Maxist/communist buzz words along with diiivveerrrrsity) than I was.

gaflyboy
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gaflyboy 09/22/13 - 10:54 am
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Excellent article

This is a very good and well written article. But, in reference to the study, the writer states “These findings are surprising”. Actually, they’re not.

The writer looks at comparing “caring and compassion” through monetary means and makes a great point. But there are other, less scientific way to do the same.

Social media has exposed many for who they are. Following the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard, a journalism professor at the U of Kansas tweeted “The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God ….”

When someone advised that he apologize, he doubled down, tweeting “Hell no, hell no, I do not regret that Tweet, I don't take it back one bit.”

http://www.campusreform.org/blog/?ID=5088

The point is that this is not an anomaly with liberals. Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites are filled with such vile and revealing statements. Members of our presidents own advisors have spewed some of the worst. Generally speaking, liberals are much more likely to voice hateful comments. It may be that there is no logical argument for the positions they take.

The findings are not at all surprising.

gaflyboy
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gaflyboy 09/22/13 - 11:00 am
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freeradical 09/22/13 - 07:47 am

Is that how you got through school? When the teacher says 'I want a three page report on ...'.

t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 09/22/13 - 11:01 am
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Title of article

"Do liberals and conservatives differ on caring and compassion?"

WOW, I could not have made a better topic to debate!! THE ANSWER is a resounding NO!! The typical conservative believes in "trical down economics" which makes the rich even richer!! They also have the VERY stern belief that EVERYONE can just pick themselves up by the boot-straps and LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER!! ( REALITY NOT )

t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 09/22/13 - 11:03 am
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First sentence

"Liberals have long held that they are more caring, more compassionate than others, especially conservatives"

DEAD-ON CORRECT!!

t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 09/22/13 - 11:12 am
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Quote from article

"This often is offered as the moral rock underpinning liberal policies, and to many liberals these are the only policies that matter. To them, fervent caring is related to the notion that, morally, they walk on water. Some make it clear that they occupy the highest moral plane"

I, as a moderate liberal, do not believe this statement in the moral asspect. In my opinion, caring for others is not necessarily the same as being moral. I equate morality with being very spiritual in the since of believing in a higher deaty like God or other religions that have only one deaty!! I think the bigger message is, what the title of this artical suggests, that liberals ARE more feeling of their fellow man!!

chascushman
6653
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chascushman 09/22/13 - 11:21 am
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'They also have the VERY
Unpublished

'They also have the VERY stern belief that EVERYONE can just pick themselves up by the boot-straps and LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER!! ( REALITY NOT )'
Bledsoe, you are correct no everyone can. Some people are going to live in poverty no matter what. The rich are going to get richer but the hope is we poorer folks will make some $ while they do.
The way the middle class gets ahead is when the rich invest in the effort to make more $. The rich are not investing in businesses in the US so there are few jobs. The rich are taking their $ elsewhere because of the policies of the Marxists/socialists that are running this country.

t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 09/22/13 - 11:18 am
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Quote from article

"Lately, however, accumulated evidence contradicts this more caring, more compassionate belief, causing one to re-examine the question: Who are the more compassionate?"

I interprate this paragraph as speaking to the government finance of liberals caring more about people!! I, being a liberal, can see this point VERY CLEARLY!! I do believe the money that ultra-liberals demand to be spent on the poor, has caused the whole country's finances to go even worse than what may be very damaging TO ALL AMERICANS!! This point I agree with.

chascushman
6653
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chascushman 09/22/13 - 11:22 am
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"Liberals have long held that
Unpublished

"Liberals have long held that they are more caring, more compassionate than others, especially conservatives"
DEAD-ON CORRECT!!"
Bledsoe, we know but the sad part is it is total lie but yet liberals are naive enough to believe it.
It is humorous but sad.

t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 09/22/13 - 11:25 am
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chascushman @ 11:15

NOW SEE, you could have turned this into an LTE and made your beliefs known to tens of thousands.

t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 09/22/13 - 11:30 am
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chascushman @ 11:22

"Bledsoe, we know but the sad part is it is total lie but yet liberals are naive enough to believe it.
It is humorous but sad."

Liberals see war as being a waste of human life, BUT I was all for military action toward Syria. I believe, ""my heart was in the right place", but my thinking was not. In retrospect, we can see where McCain and Graham were wrong.

jimmymac
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jimmymac 09/22/13 - 11:35 am
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CARING
Unpublished

The real fact is that most of the donations to charity come through religious institutions. The people going to church funding food give ways and clothing drives. Liberals who are loath to go to church like to talk about caring and compassion but talk is all they do. The libs in congress suffer from white guilt and they think that if they say the right things somehow they'll be absolved for their sins.

chascushman
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chascushman 09/22/13 - 11:36 am
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' In retrospect, we can see
Unpublished

' In retrospect, we can see where McCain and Graham were wrong.'
Bledsoe, but then they ARE NOT conservatives, they ARE LIBERALS!

t3bledsoe
14223
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t3bledsoe 09/22/13 - 11:57 am
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Making a different point

"That is to say, the same relationship between giving and attitude toward redistribution apparently occurs even among low- income, non-taxpaying citizens"

Question: Should there really even be a section of Americans THAT DON'T PAY ANY TAXES??!! This is one of my pet-peeves that leans toward the conservative side. I say, "Everyone should pay some amount of taxes especially those that have purposefully been non-respocible for there loose way of living!!!!

burninater
8961
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burninater 09/22/13 - 12:42 pm
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Riverman, verifying an

Riverman, verifying an authors facts and sources is not "attacking the messenger". My questions are valid, and if a valid point exists here, defensiveness is not necessary -- Dr. Baranek can simply make the point factually, and without misattributing supporting evidence.

You say Dr. Baranek's misattribution at the start, concerning the 2010 Brooks article, is clarified in Brooks' 2006 book, where it is stated that Conservatives give 30% more than Liberals. This is an interesting contrast to the claim in the misattributed statement that anti-"redistributionists" gave 400% more. Will you grant me that 30%, and 400%, would appear to be substantively different numbers? Further, would you grant that seeing two seemingly parallel claims, with results greater than an order of magnitude apart, raises specific questions about the validity of these claims? And finally, would you grant that further questions are raised when the greater of these two claims, the 400% number, is found to be misattributed?

Are the majority of Conservatives "redistributionist," to create this massive disparity between Conservative giving and anti-"redistributionist" giving? Or does the 400% number of 1996, and the 30% number of 2006, represent a complete sea change in liberal and conservative charitable giving? It is equally possible, from these statistics, that in the decade between 1996 to 2006, liberal/"redistributionist" giving has gone from being 4 times less than conservative/anti-"redistributionist" giving to 0.3 times less. This would imply a strong trend of reversal of attitudes towards charitable giving between liberals and conservatives, and would indicate that Dr. Baranek's thesis may have held true for the last generation of Conservatives, but is increasingly questionable for the current generation.

deestafford
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deestafford 09/22/13 - 12:02 pm
2
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Another example of the difference in compassion, if defined

by monetary giving of voluntarily of one's own money to charity, is to look at the percentages of income given to charity by politicians BEFORE they ran for office. In particular I'm speaking of the presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Based on their tax returns for the years before they announced for their offices, Reagan, Bushes, and Cheney each gave well over 10% of their income to charities. Contrast that with Clinton, Gore, Obama, and Biden each of who gave less than 2% of their income in each of the years before. But, boy, look at it increased somewhat when they announced...with the exception of Biden who continued to give less than 1%.

t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 09/22/13 - 12:04 pm
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1
Quote from article

"Income transfers to the needy via taxation are involuntary transfers; private giving is voluntary"

Even though the opportunities are few and far between, the involuntary giving CAN BE somewhat voluntary depending on the party that is in control of Washington.

t3bledsoe
14223
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t3bledsoe 09/22/13 - 12:10 pm
3
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comment about the whole article

If these findings are based ONLY on scientific facts, it is very difficult to argue with this article!! Many conservatives are of the firm belief that the minorities and the poor and the lower middle class put Obama in office. I believe it COULD be argued that these groups are less likely to donate BECAUSE they are poorer. I believe this may very well be ONE POINT that liberals can argue.

t3bledsoe
14223
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t3bledsoe 09/22/13 - 12:15 pm
2
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chascushman @ 11:36

"' In retrospect, we can see where McCain and Graham were wrong.'
Bledsoe, but then they ARE NOT conservatives, they ARE LIBERALS!"

With all due respect to all of my conservative friends, I can not believe the "flip-floping" that goes on about McCain and Graham.

t3bledsoe
14223
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t3bledsoe 09/22/13 - 12:23 pm
2
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Quote from article

"This warms the heart of the giver. There is no way to transfer this warmth to taxation. Indeed, the human touch is almost completely lost with involuntary giving"

I HAVE CHANGED my mind!! I am NO LONGER in wonderment about the sorce of these "facts"!! I ones was told by a history buff, that quite often history "facts" are only as good as the history writer relates TRUE FACTS!! I believe the same can be said of this article!! This article paints us as members of the so-called "death panels" from the fictitious paragraphs of The ACA.

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