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John Hood for Daily Journal: Freedom fosters culture of giving

John Hood writes for Carolina Journal’s Daily Journal that freedom fosters a culture of giving.

When natural disasters or other emergencies hit our state, North Carolinians respond in droves — and I’m not just referring to the crucial and praiseworthy work of our public employees who work in emergency management, public safety, and public works.

North Carolinians respond in many other ways, large and small. They form, fund, and staff nonprofit organizations that provide both immediate and long-term relief. They work for private companies that maintain, repair, and replace critical infrastructure, or rebuild homes and businesses, or supply and staff stores, restaurants, and service providers. They volunteer. They step in personally with cash, food, or labor to help friends and neighbors.

In a free society, we organize ourselves into a wide variety of social institutions. Some are governments, and necessarily so. There are tasks that require not just market transactions or voluntary associations but universal institutions that require, not request, our compliance.

But most social institutions are private. We choose whether to interact with them. We choose whether to give them time or money, either in exchange for goods and services we value more highly (from commercial enterprises) or in exchange for the feeling that we are doing good (from charitable and philanthropic enterprises).

John writes that though comparing non-profit sectors across countries can be tricky, most analysts agree that few people are as generous as Americans.

Private giving, for instance, accounts for about 2 percent of gross domestic product in the United States. It’s about half as much in Canada and Great Britain, only about .4 percent in Scandinavia, and even less in France, Japan, Germany, and Italy. As for North Carolina, we rank 10th in America in charitable giving as a share of income.

Freer societies tend to be generous societies. That’s no coincidence. When asked rather than commanded, people are moved to respond. May that ever be so.

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