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A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have! - Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Encourage Private Charitable Giving, Says Bob Barr

“One of America’s great strengths has always been the willingness of Americans to organize to solve social problems,” notes Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate for president. The great French classical liberal Alexis de Tocqueville commented on American social activism nearly two centuries ago in his classic Democracy in America. “We see this same commitment today, with the news that Americans donated more than $300 billion to charity last year, a record level, despite increased economic uncertainty,” Barr observes.

Most of this money came from individuals. “Americans are the most generous people on earth,” notes Barr. “They even gave $13 billion to international organizations, a form of personal foreign aid.”

Barr adds, “Unfortunately, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama remain mired in a government spending mindset. Indeed, the major parties have even worked to hook private agencies on public funds.” President George W. Bush initiated the so-called faith-based initiative, supported by Sen. McCain, to provide increased grants to religious organizations. Sen. Obama also has endorsed this approach.

However, “it would be far better for Americans to directly support such groups. Then politics would not determine the choices of recipient or affect the organizations’ operations” explains Barr. Moreover, getting more Americans involved would further strengthen the independent sector.

Instead of expanding government social spending, “Washington should encourage Americans to take on greater responsibility in meeting charitable needs.” First, taxes should be cut. “This year Americans will spend almost four months working just to pay for government,” observe Barr. “That leaves far too little for the famous little platoons which do so much to improve American society.”

Second, “we should consider creating a special tax credit for charitable giving, to provide Americans with a dollar-for-dollar tax reduction for money contributed to social services. We could then deduct an equivalent amount from the federal welfare budget. This would enable Americans to shift welfare from the public to the private sectors,” says Barr. It would also avoid the inevitable politicization that accompanies government grant-making.

“Private charity is a better mechanism for helping people because it is more flexible and cost-effective, and is able to speak to more than financial needs—it can help meet the many often complicated problems faced by people and their families,” he explains. Government by its nature must be rule-bound and bureaucratic. But “neighbors helping neighbors at the local level is the way Americans traditionally aided those around them in meeting difficult family circumstances and other social needs.”

There are many costs to Big Government. “One of the worst is creating a bureaucratic state that has absorbed functions once performed by individuals, groups, and communities,” notes Barr. “We must begin to reverse this process.”

Barr represented the 7th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003, where he served as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, as Vice-Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, and as a member of the Committee on Financial Services. Prior to his congressional career, Barr was appointed by President Reagan to serve as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, and also served as an official with the CIA.

Since leaving Congress, Barr has been practicing law and has teamed up with groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the American Conservative Union to actively advocate every American citizens’ right to privacy and other civil liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Along with this, Bob is committed to helping elect leaders who will strive for smaller government, lower taxes and abundant individual freedom.

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