This is a bit of a departure from our usual topics of discussion, but I have been thinking lately about charity. I was encouraged at work to set up an automatic deduction from my paycheck for the Combined Federal Campaign, a program through which federal employees can give to any number of charitable organizations. I chose one called World Neighbors and one called JHP, Inc. The former is an organization that provides skills and training to people in developing countries so that they can support themselves eventually. The latter is a homeless shelter in DC that also does case work to help people with mental health issues and job seeking. (DC has a *really* bad homelessness problem, from what I've observed since moving here.)
I like to think of myself as a pretty charitable guy who is genuinely concerned with the well-being of other humans. However, I only gave about 0.3% of my income to the Combined Federal Campaign, which seems pathetic. This makes me wonder about the charitable habits of other individuals. Am I unusually cheap with my philanthropy? Libertarians often argue that the government should not redistribute wealth, and that it should be up to individuals to decide how much of their own money they want to give to the needy. I have serious doubts about whether that sort of system would generate much money. Taxes (and the welfare programs they fund) force us to make some of our personal wealth available to those who find themselves unable to earn a living, and tax incentives encourage us to give.