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March 20, 2014


At what point in time did American Christians receive the new revelation that all this hammock-building for moochers was in fact contrary to Yahweh's will?

Since religious Americans give more time and money to charity than anyone else, I suspect you mean, "Why don't American Christians support more progressive economic policies?" So I direct you to the first 11 minutes of the video in Tuesday's post so you're able to make a distinction between the two questions in the future. Thanks.

No, I'm quite sure what I meant, because I was there.

I am referring to the very very large number of American Christians who oppose progressive economic policies, not on utilitarian grounds that they are suboptimal for achieving the desired results, but for the explicit reason that being the recipient of charity is a per se moral hazard.

This doctrine, which essentially has a hegemony over the entire discourse of one of the major American political parties, seems impossible to square with the article's (and your response's) implied approbation for the tradition of Christian charity. An approbation to which I would like to add my explicit voice, with suitable asterisks.

Hivemaker, I think you're incorrect about the ideas in play here, though you may have been taught originally by people who were incorrect about them. I've never attended a church that wasn't involved in charity work and that didn't encourage the giving of charity for a variety of things. There's a very big distinction, however, between charity and government redistribution.

There are, of course, cases where charity (if by "charity" you just mean giving money) can be the wrong move (see here, for example) for helping a person or people, but I know of no one who thinks it is by definition a moral hazard. Otherwise, how would you explain the fact that religious people give more time and money to non-profits than non-religious (and conservatives more than liberals)? Part of the reason why we prefer charitable organizations over the government is that charities are in a better position to make individual decisions based on their personal knowledge of the people they're helping.

It also turns out that those who are against redistributionist policies are more likely to give to charity. From a story on ABC News:

"You find that people who believe it's the government's job to make incomes more equal, are far less likely to give their money away," Brooks says. In fact, people who disagree with the statement, "The government has a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves," are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.

There are more news items out there on this; that was just the first one I came across just now.

This all goes back to the point that Dr. Richards makes in the first 11 minutes of the video: don't assume that if a person doesn't prefer your economic policies that that means he doesn't care about the poor.

But again, I recommend the video.

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