Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Nov. 13, 2001 / 27 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

The meaning of compassion -- THE United States has suffered few more traumatizing events than the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But the groundswell of charitable giving afterward demonstrates Americans' deep compassionate impulse. We must better tap this generosity in the future, to more fully meet the common human needs that are always with us.

Congress, motivated by political as well as humanitarian concerns, voted to cover everything from rescue to rebuilding in New York City. Legislators also established an open-ended victims' compensation fund, with families of the dead and injured expected to take home as much as a million each.

There's nothing unusual about federal aid to state and local governments. But the individual assistance package is quite different. There is, after all, nothing compassionate about compulsory charity. Moreover, Washington's exactions weren't needed. By the end of October, people had given $1.13 billion extra to private groups. This outpouring came despite a spate of layoffs in the midst of a slowing economy.

As Philanthropy Roundtable President Adam Meyerson observes, the dramatic response "is what's best about America - we move fast and we've always been the most generous." The Red Cross alone collected about $505 million and recently stopped accepting funds related to the terrorist attacks.

A September television spectacular raised $150 million. School children in Columbia, S.C., collected money to help New York City buy a new fire engine. Chuck Robinson, a retired California fireman and avid fisherman, put out an Internet appeal for fish to help feed New York rescue workers. In two days 2,500 pounds of vacuum-packed fish were sitting in his yard.

Of course, America's diverse, decentralized system is not without fault. Some fraudulent fund-raising schemes have been exposed. Double- or triple- dipping by recipients is possible. However, politics is a poor substitute for compassionate giving. For instance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is noted for its role as a congressional pork barrel, distributing money well beyond actual disaster areas, requiring little local contribution to reconstruction efforts and funding gold-plated repairs.

Government attempts to "coordinate" private assistance are little better. In New York, the state Attorney General and New York City Mayor fought over who had primacy. Charitable groups feared having to "cooperate" with a government official who also regulated their activities. Moreover, clusters of charities - to aid firefighters' families, provide scholarships for victims' children, address the mental-health needs of victims' families and survivors - began to work together. Coordination advanced with creation of a common data base, through the efforts of private accounting and computer firms, of terrorist victims.

In any case, the post-Sept. 11 philanthropic gold rush should be the start, not the end, of increased giving. Although many major charities, such as the American Heart Association, say that their contributions remain unchanged, other groups suffered a sharp reduction. One reason is undoubtedly the economy, which was slowing before the terrorist assault. However, some people obviously shifted their funds because of Sept. 11. "The money just went away overnight," worried Traci Felder of Cleveland's Make-a-Wish Foundation said a month after the attacks.

Yet pre-terrorist problems have not disappeared. Abundant private giving is particularly important because, as even government policymakers recognize, private organizations generally better meet human needs. Nor is the answer increased government funding of private charities, as proposed by President George W. Bush.

The decision on whom to give is itself an important aspect of every citizen's obligation to others. Voluntary sacrifice is what makes philanthropy a virtuous act. And only through increased private giving will it be possible to dismantle government programs which have inadvertently had so many adverse consequences - discouraging work and disrupting families, for instance.

The special victims fund is especially problematic for this reason. Simply having public aid available may discourage future giving. Explains Daniel Borochoff of the American Institute of Philanthropy, "I'm really worried that, once it gets out that certain people are going to be getting large sums of money, people could get really turned off to charity and say 'Forget it. Next disaster, I don't want to help out.'"

Some of those who rose to the challenge posed by 9/11 recognize the need for more permanent private assistance. For instance, fisherman Robinson has created an organization, "Fish for America." As he explains: "We're realizing there's a constant flow of fish that could be channeled to emergencies, disasters and soup kitchens."

Americans are a generous people. Over the years, however, government has gradually taken over many charitable services once provided by civil society. But the tragic events of Sept. 11 offer the American people an opportunity to snatch back responsibility for their families, friends and fellow citizens. They, not government officials, should be the ones immediately coming forward to care for those in need, whether victims of personal tragedy, bad economic times or international terrorism.

JWR contributor Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Comment by clicking here.


11/07/01: Patriotic scoundrels
10/30/01: The coming postal raid
10/16/01: First, do no harm
10/12/01: Good news from a suffering land
10/04/01: Defending whom?
09/25/01: The wrong solution to the wrong problem
09/21/01: The price of terrorism
08/28/01: Uncle Sam's retirement scam
08/21/01: Canberra's quaint naivete
08/14/01: Uncle Sam's false fuel economy
08/08/01: The Clinton administration in drag
07/31/01: The high cost of government
07/24/01: Kill the campaign reform illusion
07/17/01: Do as I say, not as I do
07/11/01: Lawyers at play
07/05/01: Western blundering, Macedonian disaster
06/26/01: How best to honor Bill Clinton?
06/19/01: A maturing Europe?
06/15/01: Tell Beijing to mind its own business
06/06/01: Ukraine's boiling cauldron
05/31/01: Protecting privacy from Uncle Sam
05/22/01: America's Balkan quagmire
05/09/01: The Taiwanese flash point
05/01/01: Globalization serves the world's poor
04/24/01: Who's cheating whom?
04/10/01: The NCAA scam
04/03/01: Balkan stupidities
03/27/01: McCain doesn't want a 'risk for our country'
03/20/01: Dubious Korean alliances
03/06/01: Coercive patriotism
02/27/01: Bombing without end
02/20/01: A dose of misplaced outrage
02/13/01: Psst: Tax cuts for taxpayers. Pass-it-on
02/06/01: Bridging the unbridgeable gap
01/23/01: Left-wing demagoguery
01/16/01: The drug war problem
01/10/01: Politics and trade
01/03/01: Hope for liberty?
12/27/00: The debris of war
12/19/00: What's the rule of law for?
12/15/00: Ending silicone breast implant saga
12/05/00: Election may yield victor, but there are no winners
11/21/00: A Bush presidential mandate?
11/07/00: Exprienced Gore? Yeah, right
11/01/00: Interventionist follies
10/17/00: America's brightening prospects in Ukraine
10/11/00: GOP budget scandals
10/03/00: How a pharmaceutical 'crisis' was created
09/27/00: Clinton's empathy has helped nobody
09/13/00: AlGore's risky budget policies
09/05/00: Military readiness and Korean commitments
08/29/00: Let sleeping hypocrites lie
08/21/00: Targeting a journalistic pariah
08/15/00: European garrison for Kosovo?
08/08/00: Journalistic cleansing at the Boston Globe
08/04/00: Junk science on trial
06/22/00: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty
06/15/00: The end of U.N. peacekeeping
06/07/00: The Clinton regulatory miasma
06/01/00: Administration stupidity, congressional cowardice
05/25/00: The silence of the international community
05/18/00: Protecting the next generation

05/11/00: Freer trade with China will advance human rights

05/04/00: How not to save the Constitution

04/28/00: American tripwire in Korea long ago disappeared: Why are we still involved?

04/18/00: Clinton administration believes the IRS is too gentle, wants more auditors

© 2000, Copley News Service