Ban “Giving Back”

Notice that under this arrangement of hands, no one can get very far.

Christina Hoff Sommers offers a great fact check on the propaganda currently being spread to “Ban Bossy,” here. As she details, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s campaign is rooted in cherry-picked data and at least one extremely old study that conveniently support her premise. Girls overall are doing better than boys, and “Bossy” is irrelevant to the conversation.

I don’t favor campaigns against words. As the youngest of six children, I was the target of quite a bit of teasing growing up, and Mom well taught me, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

On a more serious level, Independent Institute Research Fellow Donald Downs was recently honored by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, for his path-breaking work against campus speech codes (such as our book by him, Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus).

Unfortunately, the largely liberal (now there’s a misnomer if ever there was one) attempt to control who can say what has now moved off the campus and into the mainstream, and has further expanded to witch hunts against private citizens’ private giving to causes liberals decide are verboten (e.g., Brendan Eich and the Kochs).

So I’m not really advocating for banning the term, but I would very much appreciate the enlightened disuse of the term “Giving back.”

“Giving back” is shorthand for “Giving back to the community,” the implication of which is that one’s blessings have been provided by the community.

The corollary of it is in statements such as President Obama’s, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”

Yes, we are placed in community together, and yes, we are directed to share our blessings and bounty with our fellow creatures. But our blessings are from our Creator, our relationships are as autonomous, equally loved and valued, individual creations, and our charity (from the Greek “agape:” love) is given, voluntarily, in reflection of the love our Ccreator has given us. It is not repayment for value given, it is voluntary, and taxes are not some kind of secular alternative.

The church leaders currently crusading in Illinois for a progressive income tax apparently missed that lesson in seminary. When they quote Jesus, “For everyone to whom much is given, much will be required,” to support their arguments, do they think Jesus was suggesting that one should render unto Caesar for him to benevolently provide for the people?

It is a short trip from accepting the concept of “giving back” to believing that the coercive misappropriation of higher percentages of productive labor equates with “justice”.

So, please: Just say No to “Giving back.”

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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