With a charming mix of gentle humor and hard data, Arthur Brooks's fine new book attacks what the author calls "one of the greatest political hypocrisies of our time," namely, "the pious sloganeering about liberals in America being more compassionate than conservatives." Brooks, a Syracuse University professor of public administration, demonstrates that not just religious people but religious conservatives give far more of their time, talent, and treasure than do their secular and liberal neighbors. But Who Really Cares is not about politics, at least in the conventional sense. Brooks never advocates a cause, party, or policy, though he does criticize government disincentives to charitable giving. He also highlights charitable organizations (like New York's Common Cents) that encourage personal responsibility and emphasize the enormous benefits that giving brings…to givers. The book's main accomplishment is to show that America is a land of charity in ways that extend beyond bureaucratic programs—ways drawn from culture and especially religion. In the face of the scientific, strategic, and even venture philanthropists who disparage charity for relying on individuals instead of administrative "experts," Brooks elevates charity back to its place of honor, not as something to beg for or be embarrassed by, but as a virtue, one that requires cultivation to survive.
—Albert Keith Whitaker
Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy
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This article appeared in the Summer 2007 issue of the Claremont Review of Books