A conservative friend and policy intellectual (and also a staunch Christian), Lenore Ealy, asked me how philanthropy could best be discussed in Hayekian terms, the three "Ps" of prices, profit/loss, and property. To which I thought fit to answer as follows:
A Christian is asked by the Roman Centurion to toss a pinch of incense on Caesar's altar or be crucified. One by one the Christians choose death. When you can explain that in Hayek's terms you have gone a long way towards explaining philanthropy. Altruism, sacrifice, moral heroism, fidelity to a community, the sense of the holy - can these reduced to prices, profit and loss, and property? We must not make the market into a false god. Around the market place are the Areopagus, the Acropolis, Law Courts, and Public Parks. Without a concept of public goods, of the polis, and the community, any analysis of giving will be flawed. You cannot reduce the holy to goods bought and sold, nor justice to that, nor poetry. Parsimonious explanation is good, but as the Russian poet Mayakovsky wrote, "How with only three words, one of them, apparently, 'borscht,' can one celebrate love and spring?" To those Christians to whom caritas is not a first principle (along with faith and hope) charity will never make much sense.
The measure of a gift is the transformation of the giver as well as of the recipient and society. The transformation may be spiritual, ethical, aesthetic, or political. The crust of self-interest breaks open like a cocoon, and, having once been a caterpiller crawling on the earth, out flies an entirely new, far lighter, creature of the air. That is at least one test.
The order of the Flesh and the order of the Spirit. To combine both is Compassionate Conservativism. To find fit language would require not just economics and public policy but religious traditions and the liberal arts. When any of us manages such a synthesis, distinctions like Red and Blue or Conservative and Progressive become less important, as we meet on more elevated ground. In the forefront of what may become a non-partisan effort are thinkers like Lenore, Bill Schambra, Amy Kass, Tracy Gary, and Peter Karoff.