Monday, December 22, 2008

Confusing Compassion with Narcissism

Nicholas Kristof, two-time pulitzer prize winner and a former associate managing editor, has an op-ed column in the New York Times discussing research that he says shows that conservatives are more generous to charity than liberals.  He writes:
Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.
Are liberals really demonstrating "tremendous compassion" when all they do is advocate that someone else (the government) spend money on a problem?  Thinking of themselves as compassionate while not actually sacrificing anything sounds to me more like narcissism.

As an aside, Kristof's premise seems to be a little off.  Reading further into his column,  it seems that it is religious people, regardless of politics, who are more generous to charities.  (Since religious believers are mostly conservative, that explains the statistical partisan tilt.)  I suspect that this is simply because church members have stronger confidence that their charitable donations will be used wisely than givers to secular charities such as the United Way.

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