Four of the world’s five most charitable nations also rank among the ten most economically free, a comparison of a pair of studies finds.
The Charities Aid Foundation released its annual World Giving Index on Wednesday. The survey ranks the nations of the world according to a definition of charity that includes direct donations to charitable organizations, volunteer work, and the helping of strangers in need. The world’s five most charitable nations, according to the report, are, in order: the United States, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
The first four nations all rank among the top 10 most economically free, according to Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom. The UK comes in at 16.
Economically free countries tend to be wealthier, meaning citizens generally have more to give. But more fundamentally, nations with unfree economies tend to see the state displace civil society as the source of charitable giving.
The welfare system, explained Milton Friedman in 1980, “has destroyed private charitable arrangements that are far more effective, far more compassionate, far more person-to-person in helping people who are really, for no fault of their own, in a disadvantaged situation.”
Freer economies, on the other hand, both leave citizens with more money to give to the charities of their choosing, and foster a sense of individual responsibility towards the less fortunate – as opposed to a sense that it is the state’s responsibility to care for the poor and downtrodden.
The CAF report also found that while financial giving had declined as a result of global economic troubles, volunteer work had increased. This suggests that given fewer resources available, individuals will find other ways to help those in need.
The United States, however, saw an increase both in financial giving and volunteer time. The former is a striking find, given the persistent unemployment and economic stagnation currently gripping the nation. Even in the midst of financial hardship, Americans find ways to give back.