‘Conservatives are selfish people’ – Not

I make a point to read the New York Times every day, especially the OpEd pieces. I very often disagree with the OpEd pieces, but what are often even more remarkable are the comments. One from a piece today was especially remarkable for its concise and utterly unsupportable point.

The piece is titled The Gulf of Morality and it speaks to an issue that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately which is why/how liberals and conservatives can’t communicate.

I plan to post on the piece itself shortly, but the comment that got me is this from Stephen in New Haven (boldface by me):

Conservatives are a psychological and human anomaly. Although they like to think they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, all they really do is climb over other people on the way up. To put it bluntly: Conservatives are selfish people.

This behavior is completely at odds with human development. Selfishness does not help the group survive. We evolved to live in social groups who look after one another.

Over the many years I lived in Massachusetts, I often heard statements like this and they seemed at odds with reality as I knew it. In other words, if I looked at actual Republicans I knew were they more selfish than the Democrats I knew? No, generally not. Plenty of Democrats are selfish – possibly even more so.

Nevertheless, Democrats rarely pass up an opportunity to profess undying concern for others, but do they do more than Republicans to actually improve the lives of those people? In particular, do they personally do things? Answer: no. I could share specific anecdotes, but won’t.

You can see this in study after study of charitable giving and time spent volunteering for charities or good works. The Blue States (Democrats) systematically give less to charity – and have for years and years since I first became aware of this type of data. The Blue states consistently show up at the bottom of the charitable giving rankings. The Red States are generally towards the top. Of course, the correlation isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty darn strong.

This phenomenon is well documented by multiple studies by multiple entities. Here is 2008 piece by Nicholas Kristol, who’s about as liberal as they come, sharing the bad news. He cites studies by Arthur Brooks and Google that showed a “30%” and “nearly double” edge to Republican households over Democrat households in charitable giving.

A quick google search also yielded this excellent analysis of some of the data Kristol used to draw his conclusions done by a company called GeoIQ (they found a way to use the geo skills to enhance the data with some great charts).

Some newer data can be found here: Frasier Institute. See table below for actual data from this report. As I’ve seen before, this data shows that my beloved home state of MA which is stuffed to the gills with liberals finishes 40th (out of 50) in percentage of income given to charity. In past years, it was even worse. I think it used to be 46th or something. California is 30th out of 50.

Here’s a chart from the GeoIQ post (big version) that captures this visually. The orange states voted Republican in 2008 (aka the Red States). Blue voted Democrat (aka the Blue States). The larger the dot, the higher the charitable giving for that state as measured by the ‘Generosity Index Ranking’ – a metric compiled by the Catalogue for Philanthropy (or maybe now the Frasier Institute?).

Source: GeoIQ

Tables below from Generosity in Canada and the United States: The 2010 Generosity Index. They are hard to read here, so please click images to see them in a larger size.

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