The further to the left you are — particularly to the secular left — the less likely you are to donate your time or money to charity. Imagine two demographically identical people, except that Joe goes to church regularly and rejects the idea that the government should redistribute wealth to lessen inequality, while Sam never goes to church and favors state-driven income redistribution. Brooks says the data indicate that not only is Joe Churchgoer nearly twice as likely as Sam Secularist to give money to charities in a given year, he will also give 100 times more money per year to charities (and 50 times more to non-religious ones).While America has a long way to go before it can change the minds and powerful interests that still cling to the various vestiges of FDR's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society, the debate and public at large will gain a greater perspective on the debate on the fight on poverty. Above all, Brooks' Who Really Cares should be a great blinking sign to populists like John Edwards that this dream world of greater involvement of government in our lives is something of the past and will always be done in by the private sector and individual initiative. I recall that Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan have got a lot of mileage out of such ideas.
Because Brooks is using vast pools of data, and because he’s talking about averages rather than individuals, there is no end of exceptions to prove the rule. No doubt there are pious Scrooges and Santa-like atheists. But, basically, if you are religiously observant, a married parent, and skeptical toward the role of government, you are much more likely to be generous with your time and money.
You’re also more likely to be a political conservative, but it’s a mistake to find causation in that correlation. Certain types of people are likely to be conservative and to be charitable. But being a conservative doesn't make you charitable.
Still, the partisan ammo is what has interested the Bill O’Reilly types the most — and it is interesting, since it so directly contradicts the generations-old propaganda of the left, which depicts the rich right as stingy, unfeeling and selfish. “Blue state” America spends a lot of time talking about how much more caring and enlightened it is. But that’s with somebody else’s money. When it’s their own money, that’s a different story.
*Also, check out Andrew Ferguson's column over at Bloomberg.com on Arthur C. Brooks' Who Really Cares.