At a time of great difficulty for Republicans, one might think that self-reliance, long a hallmark of the Grand Old Party, would fall out of favor with the American people. It would be fair to suspect that Americans might look around and, seeing problem after problem accrue at home and abroad, sit back and wait for government to do something. Fortunately for the most urgent of global concerns—education, health and development, among others—this is not the case. Instead, Americans are taking it upon themselves to make a difference, recognizing that the world’s thorniest problems are often best solved by private citizens and organizations.
Among the signs that self-reliance is alive and well: Wealthy Americans are becoming increasingly interested in donating to global causes. Since 1997, the rate of global giving has increased steadily at an average of 12.5 percent each year. According to a recent Financial Times story, JPMorgan Private Bank has “noted a rise of about 20 percent over the last year in client interest in overseas donations, with high-net-worth individuals looking to support education, health and economic expansion projects in developing countries.”
And they aren’t alone. Financial planners and international banks have seen similar upswings. It all begs the question—why?
Overseas giving has increased for many reasons, but recent global disasters are certainly a major factor. Americans responded to the Asian tsunami in 2004 and the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 with unprecedented generosity. Americans also remain concerned about the war in Iraq and the struggles of other fledgling democracies in the Middle East, prompting many to get involved with microfinance endeavors that support economic, education, and health-related development. Celebrities and philanthropic businesspeople have raised awareness of HIV/AIDS, cancer, and poverty, among other growing global concerns, and this too spurs more charitable giving.
It seems like a proverbial win-win, doesn’t it? The global economy grows, making Americans wealthier. In turn, Americans share the fruits of their prosperity with those in need.
What does this increased giving tells us about Americans?
First, it speaks to the sort of Main Street conservatism that permeates the culture, despite the popular media-driven assumption that conservative values are old-fashioned or even backward. With increasing frequency, Americans are educating themselves about global issues and working to fix the problems they see in concert with private organizations. In so doing, Americans breed a culture of self-reliance by acknowledging that government cannot fix every problem plaguing the modern world.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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