Perché gli europei sono tanto avari e gli americani tanto generosi?

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die”

Mel Brooks

Alla domanda di cui al titolo cerca di rispondere Arthur Brooks nel saggio “A Continental Drift”.

Il punto di partenza è un fatto paradossale verificatosi in occasione del famoso tsunami:

… The monster waves created destruction as far away as the eastern coast of Africa. The disaster’s toll was astronomical: Three months after the tragedy, more than 300,000 people in eleven countries were dead or missing…

La generosità degli americani fu impressionante

… Americans had donated more than $1.5 billion in cash and gifts. The American Red Cross alone collected private tsunami donations adding up to nearly $400 million by the middle of March 2005. Catholic Relief Services collected nearly $100 million, and Oxfam America $30 million. Private contributions from the United States were so prolific that they created spending bottlenecks for some charities. Doctors Without Borders, for example, stopped accepting gifts just two weeks after the tragedy because it was unable to absorb and spend the donations it was receiving…

Eppure l’america fu criticata dall’ONU per la sua avarizia:

… America was nevertheless criticized for the inadequacy of its aid efforts. Many critics of the Bush administration—both in America and in Europe—noted that the most generous of governments (Germany) pledged nearly twice as much in assistance as the U.S. government. The executive director of the liberal National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) saw this as a personal charitable failing… The most famous criticism, though, came from Jan Egeland, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, who was widely reported to have called American relief efforts “stingy….

Insomma, gli Stati Uniti complessivamente si erano dimostrati i più generosi (per abitante) ma siccome la loro quota di aiuti governativi era trascurabile meritavano come paese lo stigma di paese avaro, quasi che gli abitanti non fossero “il Paese”.

Ma il discorso è più generale: l’Agenda 21 dell’ONU prescrive come obiettivo quello di arrivare ad una quota governativa di aiuti internazionali che superi lo 0.7% del PIL. Gli USA falliscono l’obiettivo anche se, complessivamente, sono il paese più generoso al mondo verso l’estero (sempre in base al PIL e per abitante). Ma l’ ONU “richiama”.

… Agenda 21. … This plan included a government foreign aid target of 0.7 percent of GDP for the most developed nations… The problem with this criticism is that it fails to take into account the disproportionately high level of private charity in the United States… It is true that U.S. official development assistance (ODA), at about $10 billion, is only about a tenth of 1 percent of GDP. “However, this amount is accompanied annually by about $13 billion in other types of government assistance, and about $16 billion from private sources, including foundations, religious congregations, voluntary organizations, universities, and corporations.”…

Ma perché l’Europa è tanto critica sulla generosità americana?

… One reason is that giving at the private level is a foreign concept to them. There is so little private charity in Europe that it is difficult to find information… The best data on private money donations in Europe are from the late 1990s. These data, however, show a huge charity gap that we can be confident has grown only in the intervening decade (for reasons I will discuss in a moment). Specifically, no Western European population comes remotely close the United States in per capita private charity…

Il gap di generosità tra i due mondi sembra profondo, anche controllando con i redditi e i tenori di vita:

… The closest nation, Spain, has average giving that is less than half that of the United States. Per person, Americans give three and a half times as much as the French, seven times as much as the Germans, and fourteen times as much as the Italians… when we correct for average income, the results barely change. Even accounting for differences in standard of living, Americans give more than twice as high a percentage of their incomes to charity as the Dutch, almost three times as much as the French, more than five times as much as the Germans, and more than ten times as much as the Italians…

Ma l’ Europa non sfigura solo con gli Stati Uniti, la sua avarizia è da primato assoluto:

… When we consider other nations, America looks better and better, but Western Europe looks worse and worse: In 1995, Tanzanians gave a larger part of their incomes than Norwegians. Kenyans gave more than Austrians and Germans. And almost everybody—Africans, South Americans, Eastern Europeans—gave more than Italians…

E in tema di volontariato? Stessa storia:

… Data from 1998 on whether people in America and Western Europe volunteer for religious, political, and charitable causes show that the story is the same. As for money donations, no European country reaches American volunteering levels—indeed, most don’t even come remotely close. For example, Americans are 15 percentage points more likely to volunteer than the Dutch (51 to 36 percent), 21 points more likely than the Swiss, and 32 points more likely than the Germans (fewer than one in five of which volunteer for any charities, churches, or other causes). These volunteering differences are not attributable to the average level of education or income. On the contrary, if we look at two people who are identical in age, sex, marital status, education, and real income—but one is European and the other American—the probability is far lower that the European will volunteer than the American. For example, an Austrian who “looks” just like an American will be 32 percentage points less likely to volunteer, a Spaniard will be 31 points less likely, and an Italian will be 29 points less likely… When we look at the overall charity of Americans, we see that by international standards we are an extraordinarily generous nation…

Probabilmente c’è una sovrastima nelle dichiarazioni sul volontariato ma questa distorsione affligge tutti:

… “There is no way that such a high percentage of Russians actually volunteer each year. You are overestimating Russian voluntarism, because Russians overstate their charitable activities.” And this was the same reaction about reported giving and volunteering levels that I got from colleagues in other European countries…

Alcuni rinviano all’alta tassazione europea e a come si provveda in quel modo agli ultimi.

… many Europeans argue that their high taxes, which provide revenues to generous social welfare systems, pay for much of what Americans cover with private charity… many believe, the state is more effective and dependable for providing support for public services and relief to the needy than reliance on voluntary sources of aid…

A volte però i dati dicono altro:

… The average tax burden in all European countries is not higher than it is in the United States. A British family, for instance, relinquishes an average of 10.8 percent of its household income to the government in income taxes. This is lower than what an average American family pays—11.3 percent…

Ma soprattutto sembra mancare il consenso sociale verso una simile strategia (i tassi di evasione sono ben più elevati che in america). Questa non è generosità.

… Still, the social spending argument is undeniably strong. A conversation with, say, a middle-class Norwegian is sufficient to convince any skeptic that high taxes and generous social welfare benefits are indeed part of a social consensus in modern Europe… Social consensus, however, is not the same thing as unanimity. Undoubtedly, forced taxes are paid against the will of many Europeans—and Europe has the tax evasion to prove it: “Massive tax evasion is Europe’s dirty little secret” declared the Wall Street Journal Europe recently. Estimates suggest that Europe’s underground economy (illegally untaxed) is nearly twice that of America’s. This does not mean that social welfare spending is bad policy, just that it is not a voluntary sacrifice for many Europeans; European government spending therefore cannot be viewed as anything equivalent to private giving…

Altri adducono il fatto che la beneficienza USA gode di incentivi fiscali. Ma…

… tax deductions represent only about 20 percent of the total value of U.S. private charity. This is nowhere near the size of the gap in average giving between the United States and the European nations. For example, even if we erase 20 percent of American gifts, the average American still gives five and a half times as much money to charity each year as the average German… Second, many European countries have tax incentives similar to (or more generous than) those in the United States… Third, this argument pertains only to money donations, but nonmoney giving in Europe is much lower than in the United States as well…

Stabiliti i fatti interroghiamoci: ma perché l’ europeo medio è tanto avato rispetto all’americano medio?

Probabilmente pesa la religiosità

… We saw that Americans are relatively unlikely to behave charitably if they are nonreligious, believe that it is the government’s job to redistribute income, and suffer from unstable family conditions. There is ample evidence that each of these forces is stronger in Europe than in America…

Religiosità e generosità sono intimamente legate

… Secularism correlates directly with low rates of charity in Europe, just as it does in the United States. All across Europe, religious citizens are more than twice as likely to volunteer for charities and causes as secularists. This correlation is specifically tied to religion, not some other characteristic associated with it…

e la religiosità europea è in via di estinzione. Oltretutto, l’ateismo europeo è particolarmente intollerante. Il mix di essere sia europei che atei è una ricetta perfetta per ottenere l’avaro del terzo millennio.

… The most diplomatic way to describe the status of religion in Europe is to say that the Continent is “post-Christian.”… With the exception of Ireland, the percentage of the population that says it has no religion or that it never attends a house of worship is higher in every European country than it is in the United States… European secularism is also more aggressive than American secularism. It is one thing to neglect religion; it is another thing entirely to disdain it openly. Yet Europeans are far more likely than Americans to do precisely this. For example, in 1998, 40 percent of Swedes and 40 percent of Norwegians “strongly agreed” with this statement: “Looking at the world, religions bring more conflict than peace.” Similarly, 28 percent of Italians and British held this strong antireligious view. In contrast, only 8 percent of Americans felt this way… The impact of being European and secular makes the difference explode. Imagine comparing secular Frenchmen with religious Americans who are identical with respect to education, age, income, sex, and marital status. We can predict that 27 percent of the secular French will volunteer, compared with 83 percent of the religious Americans…

Ma perché tanti atei in europa? Le teorie sono tante…

… Some argue that it is the suspicion Europeans have about religion after centuries of religion-related wars. Others see it as simply a selffulfilling prophecy from European humanist intellectuals, who have always seen doom for organized religion as a symbol of social progress. This idea goes back more than a century, and is characteristic of the social theories of Central Europe. Karl Marx famously referred to religion as the “opiate of the masses,” and believed it was doomed to extinction as societies progressed. Sigmund Freud and Auguste Comte viewed religion as akin to mental illness or as a manifestation of superstition. Whatever the reason for Europe’s rapid secularization, it is a fact…

… sta di fatto che gli Stati Uniti, almeno per il momento, sembrano salvarsi da quella deriva:

… data on religious participation show an increase in church membership over the past two centuries—from 17 percent of the population at the time of the American Revolution to a third of the population at the time of the Civil War, to about 60 percent today…

Perchè? Boh, qualcuno sostiene meno welfare uguale più religione e più generosità. Altri sostengono che la repressione religiosa non ha interessato l’america come l’europa. Altri che la sinistra attecchisce in modo diverso nei due continenti…

… It may be that the lack of an official government religion in America, leading to a highly competitive market for souls, has kept religion in touch with the needs of American worshippers. And America’s sunny resistance to the hold of depressing European social theories may have helped provide a defense against the creep of secularism… Recall that American proponents of income redistribution are personally far less charitable than opponents of redistribution, even after correcting for income, race, education, and other personal differences. And Europeans are far more supportive of economic redistribution than their American counterparts… income redistribution is a core tenet of left-wing politics, and the percentage of the population that classifies itself as “left” or “far left” politically is much higher in Europe than in the United States…

Un altro motivo per spiegare l’avarizia europea è la sorte della famiglia. La famiglia in europa è allo sbando, ce lo dice anche la demografia:

… “Europe as we know it is slowly going out of business,” wrote a Washington Post columnist…

Ma perché in europa ci sono così pochi bambini?, meno che in america dove gli aiuti governativi sono di gran lunga inferiori? E qui entra in gioco la salute dell’istituto familiare.

… Why have so many Europeans stopped having children? A United Nations policy paper from 2000 identified as culprits falling marriage rates, rising unmarried cohabitation by couples, and rising divorce… Modern European attitudes about family life are not just nontraditional; they are antitraditional. In 2002, 55 percent of Spaniards disagreed that it is best to marry if one wants to have children (versus 19 percent of Americans). And 81 percent agreed that divorce is the best solution for couples who can’t seem to work out their marital problems (versus 43 percent of Americans)…

Siccome è possibile dimostrare che la generosità “comincia in famiglia”… niente famiglia, niente generosità (e anche niente bambini)…

… Just as charity begins at home less and less frequently in Europe in the decision to have children, so does the broader decision to remain childless become part of the decision not to help others. As in America, there is evidence that childless Europeans are less likely to donate to charity than those with kids…

Ma la generosità non è l’unica vittima della disgregazione familiare:

… Solvency of this system as the population ages—and new workers are not there to pay retirees’ pensions—almost certainly means that Europeans face at least one of three scenarios: dramatically lower pension benefits, impossibly high taxes, or uncontrolled immigration…

Ora che vediamo più da vicino i due modelli sociali, possiamo spiegarci il gap nella generosità…

…To some, the trend of much of the developed world—especially Western Europe—toward a secular, statist, low-fertility culture is natural, probably inevitable, and maybe even desirable. It is true that European social welfare systems are effective in providing an economic floor for the citizens of these countries (for the moment), that poor Americans are poorer than poor Europeans, and that income inequality is much lower in Western Europe than it is in the United States. It would be foolish to deny that there are many benefits to these systems, which are as popular among average Europeans as the American system is in the United States. But much about these systems does not appear to encourage healthy societies in the long run. The most obvious symptoms of this are economic… “The U.S.’s GDP growth rates when it was in a ‘recession’ would be an almost boom condition in Europe.”…

Oltretutto, la generosità e la ricchezza rendono più felici

… My European friends have told me many times that differences in per capita income and economic growth might seem a small price to pay for a high quality of life brought about by economic security and low inequality. In other words, Europeans may be a little poorer than Americans, but much happier, on average. These claims, however, do not square with the facts. Consider the differences between European and American populations in subjective well-being—that is, self-judged happiness. In 2002, Europeans and Americans were asked, “If you were to consider your life in general, how happy or unhappy would you say you are, on the whole?” A greater percentage of Americans (56 percent) answered “completely happy” or “very happy” than people in European countries… It appears that something is missing for many Europeans…

All’europa sembrano mancare generosità e bambini.

… I am convinced that this “something”—or at least part of this something—is personal generosity, as reflected in giving, volunteering, and even parenting… I will show why a lack of private charity probably lurks behind the relative unhappiness and disappointing economic growth in Europe—and poses a threat to America as well…

I propri figli, d’altronde, sono le persone verso le quali è più facile essere generosi, con loro avrebbe qualche possibilità anche quell’avaraccio dell’europeo medio :-).

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