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January 9 2020

Why Are Progressives Waging War on Private Charity?

by Charlotte Hays

We closed out 2019 by acknowledging the incredible level of charitable giving in the U.S. Americans are generous. No doubt about it.

And yet a lot of progressive pundits would like to see cuts in charitable giving tax deductions or an end to the tax-exempt status of churches, which perform so many social services in America.

Indeed, there appears to be a war on private philanthropy underway in the U.S. just now.

Why is this?

Karl Zinsmeister, author of the Almanac of American Philanthropy, and editor-in-chief of Philanthropy magazine, explains in an eye-opening op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal.

The tug of war between charity and government is part of it: 

One reason many progressives are so hostile to private giving is that government and charity are often competitors. They function in many of the same areas and sometimes attack the same problems, albeit in different ways. Critics of philanthropy argue that it is disruptive, even illegitimate, for civil-society groups to compete with the state. Public-employee unions, agency officials and activists for big government scream when social authority and resources migrate from state bureaus and into independent organizations like charter schools, churches, medical charities and trainers of the poor.

Authoritarians have always hated independent civil society. Russian, Iranian and Chinese dictators clamped down on charities in recent years because they want the state to be the only forum for human influence. “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” was Mussolini’s encapsulation. For people with a controlling impulse, private wielders of resources represent alternative sources of ideas and social legitimacy that must be suppressed in favor of unitary government prescriptions.

Another reason is that private charity often shows up government by doing a better job:

Charitable problem-solving also has many practical advantages. What works to alleviate homelessness or loneliness in old age may be different in Nebraska than in New York. With government programs it is almost impossible, even illegal, to pursue different strategies in different places. In philanthropy that’s easy—local variegation is one of the field’s inherent strengths. Studies show that philanthropic efforts are more effective than government in the amount of social repair accomplished per dollar.

I urge you to read the entire article.





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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