Why It’s Right to Fund Cancer Research through Charity Instead of Government

A Dream or a Nightmare?

How about this for a nightmare? I’m standing at a free throw line, basketball in hand, 15 miserable feet away from a 10-foot-high hoop. It’s my turn to make a free throw. In typical dream fashion, I’m standing there in a suit and tie for some reason – and the pressure is on: if I make the shot, $5,000 dollars will go to cancer research. To make matters worse, I’m attempting the shot in front of 800+ people – all of whom have their eyes fixed only on me, and all of whom know the charitable stakes of my shot. Oh, and to ensure nothing but complete stress, NBA titan and cancer survivor Kareen Abdul Jabbar is standing right next to me offering pointers as he watches me prep for the shot.

Sweat much?!

The makings of my nightmare came true for about a dozen brave souls last weekend at the 10th Annual Coaches vs. Cancer Wisconsin Gala hosted by the American Cancer Society. (Thankfully, I was not among them.) Incredibly, some of the free throw shooters actually seemed to enjoy the opportunity to take a shot! Check out this video I took of a guy sinking it for five grand like it was no big deal:

What seems like a nightmare to me was a dream come true for some of those free throw shooters. Such is the nature of liberty I suppose! :)

Interpreting the Dream

One thing that particularly grabbed my attention during the contest comes at the very end of the video. As soon as the guy makes his shot, the crowd goes nuts! Such was a common theme throughout the evening: every time somebody parted ways with their money – whether it was by shooting free throws, participating in the silent auction, bidding in the live auction, or making a donation ranging from $100 to $25,000 – everybody in the crowd would cheer. We were all legitimately excited about money leaving our bank accounts to support the American Cancer Society.

In total, the gala event raised $442,801 dollars (after expenses)! And again, everybody cheered when the total amount was announced!

And we cheered for good reason. Cancer sucks. My family and friends have been affected by it, and yours probably have been too. Having the opportunity to support an organization that leads the charge against cancer is exciting – so of course we cheered about the funds raised that night.

Deeper Reflections on the Dream

But you know what? That gala event was actually the second time we gala attendees recently funded cancer research. After all, our federal income taxes were due by April 18th – and a portion of our tax dollars went to fund the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the “federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training.” The NCI organizes and manages the National Cancer Program which “conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer, rehabilitation from cancer, and the continuing care of cancer patients and the families of cancer patients.”

There is zero argument: the National Cancer Program is a wholly worthwhile cause.

Yet despite the program’s worthiness – and unlike the gala event – I don’t recall hearing cheers from my fellow taxpayers while visiting my accountant’s office last month. Mind you, I filed my taxes like three whole weeks ago – so maybe my memory about others’ reactions to funding the federal government is a little fuzzy – but I can say with certainty that I wasn’t at all excited to review all the money I sent to the IRS in 2016.

In fact, quite the opposite was true. Whereas I gladly gave to the American Cancer Society, my accountant’s charged task was to comb through the IRS tax code find and fight for every last penny that could possibly be returned to me from the federal government.

Was your experience the same? If you had to cut a check to the IRS last month, were you angry? Or, on the flip side, if you got a tax refund, were you gleeful? Of course you were! We all seek to minimize the amount of tax we pay, and we surely take that refund check if and when it’s available.

But wait a minute. What about the National Cancer Program? Do you realize that the NCI is facing budget reductions of 0.2% for 2017 – and meanwhile you’re fighting to scrape back every available red cent from the feds? Geez you jerk, why do you hate funding cancer research?!

Of course, I ask that question with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek – but I ask it to make a simple but profoundly important point. There are exactly two ways for us to collectively fund cancer research: voluntarily through charity, or forcibly through government taxation.

Cancer research is funded under each scenario. But consider our spiritual reactions to our relinquishing of cash under each circumstance: when we voluntarily fund cancer research through charity – like at the gala event I attended last weekend – our spirits are filled with deep senses of compassion; oppositely, when we’re forced to fund cancer research through government taxation, our spirits are filled with deep senses of resentment.

The Difference Between a Dream and a Nightmare

The end goal of each scenario is absolutely good: funding cancer research is noble, honorable, moral, entirely right! But the methods by which We the People organize our collective efforts in pursuit of that end goal matter. We can choose to pursue the goal through voluntary cooperation (e.g. charity), or we can choose to pursue that goal through force (e.g. government taxation). Our choice directly impacts our liberty and our culture.

As evidenced at the gala event last weekend, We the People are fully capable of funding cancer research through voluntary cooperation. There is absolutely no reason why the federal government needs to fund a National Cancer Program which (again) “conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer, rehabilitation from cancer, and the continuing care of cancer patients and the families of cancer patients.” The entire scope of that mission can be handled through voluntary cooperation.

As such, I suggest that the federal government should quit funding cancer research – not because I’m against cancer research, but rather because I reject the notion that it’s government’s responsibility to fund it. When we fund worthy causes like cancer research voluntarily, we breed compassion in American culture and enhance liberty. When we fund worthy causes through force, we breed resentment and weaken liberty. Either way, we pursue the same end goal – but the social implications of each method are the difference between a dream and nightmare if you ask me.


Do you agree with my conclusion that funding cancer research should be done through private charity instead of government? Why or why not? Do you see any reason why the federal government necessarily should be involved with funding cancer research? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Ross Brown
President at LTP
I'm a 2007 Luther College grad trying to make the most out of every day. I enjoy spending time with my family, charcoal grilling, downhill skiing, double IPAs, fine scotch, going to church, jogging, Texas Holdem, fishing, reading, and watching the Green Bay Packers dominate the NFL.

I'm passionate about passion. Whatever you're passionate about, go do it!