FT columnist Christopher Caldwell questions the motives of American philanthropists.
Americans are right to be suspicious of charitable giving in general. The country’s philanthropy is unique. Its two key institutions are the tax deduction for charitable gifts and the tax-exempt foundation. …. Americans pat themselves on the back for their generosity, not always with good reason. Olivier Zunz, a historian of philanthropy at the University of Virginia, calls American charity a “capitalist venture in social betterment, not an act of kindness as understood in Christianity”. Giving to a foundation can be self-interested – a way for a rich person to launder economic power that he does not need into political power that he does. Foundations inevitably get politicised, not because donors are corrupt or insincere but because they are rational. Lobbying for a piece of a government budget is a more efficient way of serving most causes than simply spending donations.
Christopher Caldwell, “Charity: America’s alternative to tax“, Financial Times, 27 October 2012.
Christopher Caldwell (born 1962) is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard, an American neoconservative opinion magazine that loses money, but remains in print thanks to the generosity of wealthy conservative benefactors.