Sunday, July 02, 2006
Charity begins in Omaha?
Unless you have been living under a rock these last couple of weeks, you know that Warren Buffett has made an unprecedented donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Next month, the Foundation will receive the first installment of the approximately thirty billion dollar pledge. Fan-freaking-tastic, man!
According to Dwight Burlingame, professor of philanthropic studies at Indiana University, private giving, even with Mr Buffett's gift, hovers around 2% in this country. He was a panelist on monday's Talk of the Nation, along with Pablo Eisenberg and Jill Manny. I have been mulling this program over for the last week, primarily because one statement caught my attention.
The first caller, Joe, expressed concern over what he called the "privatization of charity." He went on to say that there are many memebers of the "conservative evangelical movement" who belive that "charity is not the place of the governement." This "greatly concerns" him, and he says this "ought to shame our government."
I encourage you to give this program a listen before taking my word for it, for I confess to listening through filters that were put into place by the tone taken by Joe, the first caller. Perhaps I am missing something, so please do not hesitate to correct my conclusions.
The discussion revolved around the impact of these foundations and there was more than one mention of the lack of accountability imposed on private foundations. Lots of talk about rules, and lack of manpower to "enforce" them, blah blah blah.
I guess that I fall into that category of "conservative evangelicals" (I do not think the two go hand in hand. I am a political conservative who happens to be an evangelical. There is no cause and effect relationship here.)in that I do not think the government should be in the business of charity. Sorry. I do think we have personal responsibility, please do not misunderstand me. I just do not think it is the job of our government. I want to say where my money goes, pure and simple.
If an organization has vaules which I find abhorrent, I want the right to not support them financially. With goverment funding, I don't have this right. Case in point, Planned Parenthood. Anyone who knows me, or has had the misfortune to read my postings here should be aware by now that I am pretty rabidly pro-life. Our laws do not agree with me, so I must suck up that fact that my tax dollars fund these acts which I find morally repugnant. I have little control over where my money goes in this case, simply because a greater portion of my income goes to my day to day expenses. You can bet that I am pretty picky about where my modest resources do go, though.
Warren Buffett and other people of not insignificant means have this luxury, why shouldn't we? I would not choose The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ok? I don't agree with enough of their philsophies to place my money in their hands. However, the beauty of our economic model is that I don't have to. There is a veritable smorgasboard of opportunity out there!
Why do some people feel the need to dictate where my money is best spent? I admit that I am not a scientist, not an economist, not a sociologist. I do however, credit myself and my fellow citizens with enough intelligence to decide for ourselves which causes, organizations, etc. we want supported.
The idea the "privatization" of charity is somehow un-democratic chafes. It seems to me to be the opposite! I have certain obligations as a Christ-follower. Ok. Someone else may not feel the same obligation, but may have another motivation. Either way, I trust the American people enough to let them decide.
Seriously, who would you trust more with your money- the US Government (because they do such a great job already) or specific charities of your choosing. Why should only the few wealthiest get to make this choice?
On a side note, it pains me to hear the cynicism and disdain from a couple callers on TOTN. I suppose it stems from envy. After all, who wouldn't want even a fraction of the resources available to people like Gates and Buffett? Satisfaction, however, is an entirely different post, and that kind of wealth brings with it geat burdens.
Ok, that's all from me for now. You may commence the verbal flogging.