Guest Editorial: Americans feel charitable

The Orange County Register
Jan. 26
Guest Editorial

If you are down on your luck and in need of a helping hand, you can take heart that your fellow Americans are the most generous in the world, according to “The Almanac of American Philanthropy,” published by the Philanthropy Roundtable.

In fact, not only does the U.S. donate the highest percentage of its GDP in the world, Americans’ voluntary donation rate is twice as high as that in Britain and Canada, and nearly 20 times as high as the rate in Germany and Italy.

Shattering myths about the stinginess of the wealthy and bleeding-heart liberals’ monopoly on compassion, the Almanac also revealed that the top 1 percent of income earners (with annual household income of at least $394,000) account for about one-third of all charitable giving, and that even though conservative households earned 6 percent less income than liberal households, they donated 30 percent more to charity.

In a 2015 national poll commissioned by the Roundtable, when asked if their first choice for solving a social problem would be to use government or use philanthropic aid, 47 percent of Americans chose private charity, compared to 32 percent for government.

“This is partly just a response to what we see around us: In crucial areas like medical care, disaster relief, college education, family life, addiction treatment, sharing the arts, expanding home ownership and so forth, the most effective actors are often charitable and voluntary groups, not state agencies,” the organization explained.

Even some of those who prefer government action recognize that it is less efficient at addressing social problems, as reflected by the 59 percent who said private charities are most cost-effective, versus just 20 percent who said government is.

Americans’ generosity has persisted despite the fact that government’s exponential growth has crowded out much private charity and social services previously offered by mutual aid societies, or “fraternal organizations,” which operated locally and had a greater interest in helping those in need while economizing their members’ contributions.

Just imagine how much more generous Americans would be if governments did not waste so much of their money on inefficient programs with bloated administration, politicians’ wasteful pet projects, military adventurism and programs and causes with which they do not agree.