There has been a lot of talk about Rick Santorum as the “second coming” (so to speak) of compassionate conservatism.  He has spoken eloquently about the needs of the least among us and of the inadequacy of government—any government, however large—in addressing those needs.  By my lights, that’s the core of compassionate conservatism.  Add to it an appreciation of the power of the market as the tide that lifts all boats, making all more capable of caring for themselves and for their misfortunate neighbors, and you have a message that ought to resonate with all the conservative constituencies.

A related narrative has to do with the relative generosity of conservatives in comparison with their liberal brethren.  As Arthur Brooks found a few years ago—in a study that others have corroborated —those who identify as conservative give more to charity than those who identify as liberal.

And there have been some spectacular examples of liberals willing to be generous with other people’s money, but not with their own.

Which brings us to Rick Santorum, whose rate of charitable giving is above the national average, but hardly deep in compassionate conservative territory.   His leading Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, has been far more generous, as his President Obama, though in the case of our President, there seems to be an historical connection between his rate of charitable giving and the scope of his political ambition .

I appreciate Senator Santorum’s explanation—special needs children are very expensive.  And I’m not about to urge him to change the way he allocates his income for merely political reasons.

But talking the talk is less believeable when you can with relative ease be accused of not walking the walk, of not putting your money where your mouth is.

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