Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Rights & Reason: Charity vs. Advertising

John Feinstein is a wonderful sportswriter. His books on college basketball, college football, and golf, demonstrate an unimpeachable commitment to quality research and writing. He is, in my view, the best active sportswriter in the country. That's why I get genuinely angry when he shows himself to be an anti-capitalist shill, as he did in this paragraph from his weekly America Online column:
Once the little Martians have studied up on that, they can turn their attention to the commercials, which, for those of you keeping score at home, cost $2.9 million per 30 seconds this year. Imagine for one second if CBS and each of those corporations had agreed to take just $100,000 from each of those spots and had given that money to the homeless; what a difference it could make in countless lives.

Oh wait, that's one of those silly liberal thoughts. Can't have that while we're celebrating the homespun values of American Excess.
This argument is breathtaking in its intentional stupdity. The corporations that purchased Super Bowl ads already make a difference in countless lives: They employ thousands of workers, often providing them with health and pension benefits; they produce products that improve the quality of life for millions of Americans; they contribute billions in tax dollars to governments that blow the money on the type of faux-charitable endeavors Feinstein longs for; and they enable each and every American to watch the Super Bowl free of charge. Without greedy corporations, the Super Bowl would have gone pay-per-view long ago.

Feinstein also ignores the fact that most major corporations already give millions to charity each year, if for no other reason than the tax code rewards such actions. Corporations set up tax-exempt foundations exclusively to make charitable donations and run community service programs. Should these efforts be ignored simply because these same corporations also pay a premium to advertise on the most-watched television program of the year?

And why does he single out the homeless as particularly worthy of charity? What about Africans dying of AIDS? Or victims of terrorist attacks? Or earthquake survivors? Is a company not sufficiently charitable unless it donates to causes that Feinstein and his leftist buddies decide are worthy?

Feinstein's argument implies the homeless are the moral superior of corporations. I strongly reject that implication. Corporations earn their money through marketplace competition; the homeless are not virtuous simply by the fact of their poverty. Behind almost every American corporation is one or more founders who built their businesses from scratch.

The same can be said of many professional athletes, who often work their way out of poverty to become multi-millionaires. What about the countless opportunities the NFL and its sponsors have given these athletes? Is that less virtuous than handing out money to the homeless? Corporations do not cause homelessness; they help solve it everyday. It is often the politicians that help cause the problem, however, not only by taxing successful businesses, but by imposing regulatory burdens that raise the cost of housing for the less affluent. These regulations are often imposed by liberal political regimes, such as San Francisco, in the name of stopping "urban sprawl" or limiting the growth of evil corporations. It is anti-capitalism, not greed, that cause human misery and suffering.

Feinstein forgets a simple truth: Charity is possible only where there is profit. Without "excess", there would be nothing to give away.

No comments: