Friday, March 13, 2009

Taking Aim at The Independent Sector (!)

Perhaps it was because Doug and I are doing research on "reverse crowd-out" (research in which we have cited repeatedly the work by Gruber and Hungerman on the New Deal), but I wrote my February 26th post, below, only a couple of hours after reading about the Obama Administration's double-pronged attacks on private charitable giving. Not surprisingly, many other people dove in and have written on this subject.

One disconcerting note is that there are people in the world of charitable giving (a few, but not mostly, church-connected) that offer the apology that we have to remember the indirect effects. The Obama tax increases will go into the general U.S. revenue pool and that there will be some corresponding increase in "good things for the poor" (that assumes that the massive increase of government presence in our health care system will actually help the poor, but that's a debate for another post). The problem with this argument is that these folks are actively accepting the "crowding out" of private, voluntary charitable activity by coercively-based, government programs as, at worst, some kind of value-neutral trade-off. Despite the fact that this trade-off is pretty much gospel (pardon the pun) among many of the social activists that populate my own denomination (Presbyterian Church USA), I think that this was a terrible deal with the devil (and I don't mean that as a pun) in the 1930s and and equally so today.

Thanks to a link from Kathryn Jean Lopez, I found an extensive and forceful discussion of the broader consequences for Christianity of a new wave of crowding out. The author is Prof. Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, and it is linked to the Wall Street Journal. The title is great: "God Will Provide --- Unless the Government Gets There First."

Discerning the appropriate response to such a march of secularlism is not an easy call, and I hope to explore the issues more in future posts.

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