Spending other people’s money is not the best way to reflect one’s values

From the Goldwater Institute (www.goldwaterinstitute.org):

A recent Arizona Republic letter to the editor lamented the fact that our government funds war, but not universal health care. The writer asks what that says about our values. That letter got me thinking, what does government spending say about our values?

In the book Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters, economist Arthur C. Brooks points out that Americans who believe in limited government give more to others on average than those who believe in active government. Believers in small government give more time, money, and even blood. They give more to secular causes, too. This is not to say that there are not very generous individuals of every political stripe. The issue is one of emphasis and how much values are, in fact, reflected in a government budget.

The Wall Street Journal just published an article on the revival of the “religious left.” The religious left, mostly left-leaning clergy, agitates for increased minimum wages and social program spending.

One must wonder, though, how virtuous a society is when traditionally charitable giving must be forced on people through taxation. Perhaps those who recommend such a policy are too unwilling to give of themselves. As Dr. Brooks’ research suggests perhaps one’s values are best reflected in one’s personal spending rather than in the spending of other people’s money.

An excerpt from the book Who Really Cares, by Arthur C. Brooks (See www.arthurbrooks.net):

Let us be clear: Government spending is not charity. It is not a voluntary sacrifice by individuals. No matter how beneficial or humane it might be, no matter how necessary it is for providing public services, it is still the obligatory redistribution of tax revenues. Because government spending is not charity, sanctimonious yard signs do not prove that the bearers are charitable or that their opponents are selfish.

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