March 8, 2012

Don’t Mistake Taking For Giving

This editorial in the Springfield News-Leader argues that the Missouri Legislature should follow the lead of certain charitable foundations and private donors in spending more money on higher education in the state. The piece is titled: “Passion for education now: Hopefully, state officials will learn from those who give.”

However, if the state is going to spend more on higher education, then it is going to have to take it from taxpayers. Taking is the opposite of giving. The state is not learning anything from charitable donors if it uses tax revenue, its primary source of funding, to increase spending on higher education. Spending other people’s money is not charity.

Let’s give credit where it is due; the editorial nicely honors those who have donated money toward the cause of helping others. For instance, it praises the generosity of folks like the late Lorene Thompson Brooks, who donated $4 million toward the “need-based scholarship program Corps of Opportunity and two athletic scholarships.” And it (rightfully) lauds the donors who gave $14.4 million in donations towards a university’s capital campaign – $4.4 million more than the hoped-for $10 million. I cannot help but wonder if these individuals would have been able to be so charitable if the state had taken more of their money.

The argument that the state should mimic the example of private donors, taken to its logical conclusion, undermines real charity. When the state spends more, taxpayers have less money to donate.

Let’s hope the state remains an environment of less taking and more giving.

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