Charity plays special role in free society

To the editor,

The very idea that an organization rather than a government can address and resolve a societal problem has become a hot-button issue [“Telling story a critical job for charity”, Philanthropy Journal, 09.28.05].

At its heart is the issue of when a government can and should resolve some problems, or whether they are best left to non-government organizations.

The problem about pushing to change what is wrong with America is that there is a profound disagreement about what is wrong with America.

For example, those who want a larger government in tighter control of the education and social systems generally disagree with the free-market approach to giving the government a smaller role that is limited to providing support to local solutions.

Take the issue of school vouchers that support private schools.

Those who advocate for strong government control of education seem to be deeply opposed to letting poorer parents take control of their own children’s education.

It doesn’t seem to matter that a private school may provide a better education.

Those who oppose vouchers do not seem to be concerned with a better education for the parent’s children but, rather, that the government provides the same education for all.

Even after it is clear that public schools are failing in some areas despite increasing amounts of public funding, and that nonprofit organizations in many cases can and do provide better quality education at a lower cost, there are advocates who insist that letting parents choose the nonprofit solution will harm the educational system, rather than improve it.

Nonprofits do and should advocate for changes in our country, but not in lockstep.

What nonprofits do best is to demonstrate potential solutions to difficult problems.

Not all advocates offer the best solutions, but nonprofits can and do demonstrate every day the power of a free society to address its deepest problems.

— John Greholver, county business coordinator, The Salvation Army Santa Cruz County, Capitola Calif.

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