PACS news / August 21, 2018

Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better by Rob Reich

| Is philanthropy, by its very nature, a threat to today’s democracy?

Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better by Rob Reich investigates the ethical and political dimensions of philanthropy, and considers how giving might better support democratic values and promote justice. 

Though we may laud wealthy individuals who give away their money for society’s benefit, Just Giving shows how generosity not only is not the unassailable good we think it to be, but might also undermine democratic values and set back aspirations of justice. Big philanthropy is often an exercise of power, the conversion of private assets into public influence. And it is a form of power that is largely unaccountable, often perpetual, and lavishly tax-advantaged. 

These outcomes are shaped by the policies that define and structure philanthropy. When, how much, and to whom people give is influenced by laws governing everything from the creation of foundations and nonprofits, to generous tax exemptions for donations of money and property.

Rob Reich asks: What attitude and what policies should democracies have concerning individuals who give money away for public purposes? Philanthropy currently fails democracy in many ways, but Reich argues that it can be redeemed. 

“In elegant, lucid prose, Rob Reich invites us to rethink the justification of state subsidies for philanthropy and raises the standard for what counts as just and fair philanthropic practice. This book offers a subtle evolution in paradigms for analyzing political economy by connecting the criticism and justification of philanthropy to an ideal of political equality. The place of philanthropy in our highly unequal society should matter to all of us and this book, rich with compelling insight, should too.” —Danielle Allen, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and chair of the Mellon Foundation Board

The book will be available on November 13, 2018. Pre-order your copy here