Wealth sustains charities
Charity — helping people who have trouble helping themselves — is a good thing two times over. It's good for the beneficiary and good for the donor, too.
Stephen Post's fine book, “The Hidden Gifts of Helping,” reveals that 76 percent of Americans say that helping others is what makes them most happy. Giving money makes us feel good, and face-to-face helping is even better. People say it makes them feel physically healthier.
Private charity is unquestioningly better than government efforts to help people. Government squanders money. Charities sometime squander money, too, but they usually don't.
Proof of the superiority of private over government efforts is everywhere. Catholic charities do a better job educating children than government — for much less money. New York City's government left Central Park a dangerous mess. Then a private charity rescued it. But while charity is important, let's not overlook something more important: Before we can help anyone, we first need something to give. Production precedes donation. Advocates of big government forget this.
We can't give unless we (or someone) first creates. Yet wealth creators are encouraged to feel guilt. “Bill Gates, or any billionaire, for that matter — how did they become a billionaire? By creating a product or great service that benefits everybody,” Yaron Brook, author of “Free Market Revolution” and president of the Ayn Rand Institute, said on my TV show.
Gates walks in the footprints of earlier creators, such as John D. Rockefeller, who got rich by lowering the price of oil products, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who did the same for transportation. The clueless media called them “robber barons,” but they were neither robbers nor barons.
They and other creators didn't just give us products to improve our lives; they also employed people. That's charity that keeps on giving, because employees keep working and keep supporting their families. “That's not charity,” Brook said. “(It's) another trade. You pay your employees and get something in return. But the employee is better off, and you are better off.”
Brook points out that Gates gets credit for his charity, but little credit for having created wealth. “Quite the contrary,” Brook said. “We sent the Justice Department to go after him. He's considered greedy, in spite of all the hundreds of millions of people he's helped, because he benefited at the same time. (When) he shifted to charity, suddenly he's a good guy. My complaint is not that he's doing the charity. It's that we as a society value not the creation, not the building, not the accumulation of wealth. ... What we value is the charity.”
What especially offends Brook, and me, too, is stigmatizing wealth creators. The rich are made to feel guilty about making money.
I sometimes attend “lifetime achievement award” ceremonies meant to honor a businessman. Inevitably, the recipient's charity work is celebrated much more enthusiastically than his business creation. Sometimes the businessman says he wants to “give back.”
Says Brook, “It's wrong for businessmen to feel like they need to ‘give back' as if they took something away from anybody.”
He's right. They didn't.
If we value benevolence, we must value creation.
John Stossel is host of “Stossel” on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of “No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Court lets stand ruling for Beaver County widow whose house was auctioned over $6.30 late fee
- Plum High School teacher held for court on charges of intimidation
- Westmoreland park police probe report of man who grabbed woman from Twin Lakes trail
- Philadelphia U.S. Rep. Fattah indicted in racketeering case
- USW workers to march on ATI headquarters
- Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
- School credit ratings a problem for several in Western Pennsylvania
- Steelers’ Wheaton adjusting his game moving to slot receiver
- Kang’s 9th-inning home run gives Pirates wild victory over Twins
- Thief’s attorney blames Rivers Casino; judge isn’t swayed
- Driver accused of crashing head-on into Ligonier officer’s SUV waives right to preliminary hearing