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Book Jacket

256 pages
Nov 2006
Basic Books

Who Really Cares? America's Charity Divide-- Who Gives, Who Doesn't, and Why It Matters

by Albert C. Brooks

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


Though the book jacket of Who Really Cares? America's Charity Divide--Who Gives, Who Doesn't, and Why It Matters claims that it “shatters stereotypes about charity in America,” author Arthur C. Brooks spends 250 pages failing to do just that. Brooks sprinkles his book with interesting facts from other sources to support the point that it is just a myth that “the political Left is more compassionate than the Right.”

Brooks measures compassion by studying religious observance, income, amount of money given, amount of volunteer time given, personal circumstances, and overall attitudes toward the unfortunate. From these measurements, Brooks, (a professor of public administration at Syracuse University) comes to the conclusion that contrary to popular belief and long-standing reputation, liberals are actually less giving than conservatives.

Who Really Cares is more focused on cleaning up the reputation of political conservatives, and bringing to light what they do, rather than what they don't. It fails to present a forthright examination of the facts. Brooks explains the idea that there are two Americas: one charitable, one not. His stated personal goal for examining these two Americas is to figure out who isn't giving, and how to change that—a worthy one, to be sure. Brooks makes such points as, “Most Americans are charitable, just as they are religious, so the anticharity, secularist tilt of the American left can only be to the benefit of the American right wing, politically,” to assure his readers that “compassionate conservatives” are the ones doing the giving, and liberals are getting the credit for it.

Ultimately, the gems readers of Who Really Cares will enjoy the most will be the tidbits of information Brooks has imported from various sources and attempted to use to support his thesis. Brooks states too many times that he is surprised by phenomena presented repeatedly by mainstream media, such as people with less money who are more unfortunate tend to give a higher percentage of their incomes than people with more money who are more fortunate tend to give. The author's surprise at this widely-examined point, which certainly isn't original to his research and thereby his book, really shows that he isn't as familiar as he should be with the topic of party-line giving. Also, Brooks' tendency to write in circles and not follow a logical pattern of organization only serves to make reading his book more frustrating. I would only recommend Who Really Cares to those who want to skip the author's points entirely, and just enjoy an interesting collection of Brooks' referenced factoids on the subject. – Meg Tepfer, Christian Book

Book Jacket:

We all know we should give to charity, but who really does? Approximately three-quarters of Americans give their time and money to various charities, churches, and causes; the other quarter of the population does not. Why has America split into two nations: givers and non-givers? Arthur Brooks, a top scholar of economics and public policy, has spent years researching this trend, and even he was surprised by what he found.

In Who Really Cares, he demonstrates conclusively that conservatives really are compassionate-far more compassionate than their liberal foes. Strong families, church attendance, earned income (as opposed to state-subsidized income), and the belief that individuals, not government, offer the best solution to social ills-all of these factors determine how likely one is to give.

Charity matters--not just to the givers and to the recipients, but to the nation as a whole. It is crucial to our prosperity, happiness, health, and our ability to govern ourselves as a free people. In Who Really Cares, Brooks outlines strategies for expanding the ranks of givers, for the good of all Americans.