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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Will Hollywood liberals show us the way to welfare reform?

200px-Marvin_olasky_portrait_ncs My copy of Renewing American Compassion is inexcusably dusty. I haven’t picked up the 1996 book by Marvin Olasky in some time, but was inspired to do so today by the generosity of Hollywood power-couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Olasky has dedicated a lifetime of academic research and writing to critical analysis of the welfare state, which Olasky argues is ineffective because faceless government bureaucracies alienate taxpayers from the poor, while “private charity has the power to change lives because it allows for a personal connection between the giver and the recipient.”

Olasky’s vision of highly decentralized, private, often faith-based, charity was labelled “compassionate conservatism” and championed by Republicans like Newt Gingrich and former President George W. Bush. Compassionate conservatism, however, soon became code for moderate or welfare state conservatism, when, in actual fact, Olasky had laid out a road map for dismantling the welfare state and replacing it with community-based charities driven by private compassion and duty.

Is Olasky’s vision compatible with the philanthropic work of people like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie? Maybe not, but private charitable giving is always worth showcasing as an example of what could be common place if compassion was privatized and welfare state spending returned to citizens through tax relief.

MSNBC is reporting today that Pitt and Jolie, known to celebrity watchers as Brangelina, have been busy giving away their money:

First, it was the creation of the Jane Pitt Pediatric Cancer Center, named after Brad's mother, in his hometown of Springfield, Mo. And Wednesday, in support of Jolie's eight-year relationship with the UN Refugee Agency, the Jolie-Pitt Foundation gave $1 million to help displaced people in Pakistan, a country she has visited three times.

Charitable giving by Hollywood liberals is nothing new, of course. Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network has raised more than $51 million and Winfrey herself has donated more than $300 million of her own money to charitable causes.

Pitt, Jolie and Winfrey are not likely to call for the dismantling of the welfare state, but their private actions go a long way to remind us that wealth and compassion in private hands will do more to help society’s most vulnerable than costly government schemes.

(Picture: Marvin Olasky)

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 18, 2009 | Permalink


Geez, you had every excuse to put up a picture of Bradd Pitt and instead you use this guy?

Posted by: epsilon | 2009-06-18 1:40:21 PM

You mean the same way they showed us to AIDS?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-06-18 2:50:49 PM

Celebrities always make fascinating case studies for charitable giving. Sadly alot of it is driven by guilt and elitism. Celebs like Pitt and Jolie, Madonna etc. will go to the other side of the world to adopt kids, yet would never think of adopting one from their own state, or country.

Posted by: Cid the Cidious | 2009-06-18 3:08:48 PM

I have to admit I'd never heard of Marvin Olasky before this piece, but I'm definitely going to look him. This is the way forward, trying to explain to people that the welfare state just doesn't do the job it's suppose to be doing, and can't by its nature. Destroy the welfare state and the case for statism begins to weak dramatically in the public's mind.

Posted by: Publius | 2009-06-18 5:48:36 PM

I think you'd really like Olasky, Publius. He's an altruist, but an altruist who believes in individual responsibility, not state collectivism.

Are you an Objectivist?

Epsilon, that comment was very funny. I was thinking of posting a picture of Jolie, but Olasky seemed like a better choice for Western Standard readers.

Cid, "guilt and elitism"? You might be right, but the act of watching Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey throw millions at private charitable causes can only help to reinforce the idea that private actions can substitute for the welfare state.

Shane, I'm not sure I follow your point.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-06-18 6:09:16 PM

I can tell you, from experience, that private donations dry up when the state starts handling charities. The real drawback to this is, you now have government bureaucrats deciding who deserves a piece of the pie.

I'm an amateur coach, in a sport that is sometimes controversial. Let's just say, not many people who opt for typical government positions are likely to have competed in my sport. That fact often leaves us with the short straw. If donations were left to the private sector, with tax breaks, we could approach the sort of people who typically support my kind of sport.

Some might argue that government is better at keeping a fair balance, but that doesn't hold much water. The entertainers will always support fringe causes, pro sports will support amateur sport, professionals will support education funding, and so on. If a cause deserves support, chances are, it will be there.

Posted by: dp | 2009-06-18 6:47:38 PM

"Shane, I'm not sure I follow your point."

AIDS, the great lifestyle disease of the late 20th century, first rose to prominence among Hollywood actors. Given their highly questionable habits and the consequences that derive from them, I'm hesitant to emulate them in any manner. Jeez, it wasn't that obscure a reference, was it?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-06-18 7:26:53 PM

No it wasn't, Shane. Gotcha.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-06-18 7:40:23 PM

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