April 21, 2014
April 18, 2014
Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology
The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious
: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain
April 14, 2014
Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time
: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic
: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships
: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin
: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate
: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
April 11, 2014
Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden
: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does
: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer
: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You
April 9, 2014
Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?
Samuel G. Freedman
: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau
: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau
: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
April 8, 2014
Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease
Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear
April 4, 2014
A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children
Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet
Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds
Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves
April 2, 2014
Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?
Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities
It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene
Jewish World Review
April 2, 2007
/ 14 Nissan, 5767
Benefactors must be hardheaded
What would we do without benefactors and the money they leave? I've been reading a new biography of James Smithson, the mysterious English gentleman scientist who died in 1829 and left a half-million dollars to endow a foundation in Washington, D.C. that would create "an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." This munificent gift a little more than 100,000 gold sovereigns was unprecedented in America and aroused suspicion. Smithson had never set foot in the U.S. He was an illegitimate son of the Duke of Northumberland, who had held high office under George III. Smithson detested the monarchy and all it stood for and believed America to be the country of the future, especially if science flourished there. His gift was intended to ensure that it did.
Well, Smithson was right, wasn't he? But, at the time, his gift seemed too good to be true. It took the persuasive powers of former President John Quincy Adams to persuade Congress to accept it and set up the new powerhouse of knowledge. The Smithsonian has proved to be one of the world's great success stories in institution creation. It is indeed a center of advanced technology and science, and it is also the nation's luxury attic, in which such treasures as the original Star-Spangled Banner, Lincoln's top hat, the Spirit of St. Louis and the Mercury Friendship 7 spacecraft are displayed. The delightful castle, which is the museum's core, has spawned many other museums, and as a place to visit, there's nothing like it anywhere else in the world for charm, variety, richness and sheer fun. Smithson's spirit has every reason to be delighted with the success of his scheme and the way in which it has been a model for so many other large-scale benefactions.
MODEL BY EXAMPLE
Andrew Carnegie the man whose blast furnaces produced the first cheap high-quality steel, making him in his day one of the world's richest men clearly had Smithson in mind when deciding what to do with his own money. In his fascinating essay, "The Gospel of Wealth," Carnegie argues that it is morally acceptable to become rich by lawful means but reprehensible to hang on to that wealth: "[The] man who dies rich dies disgraced." Carnegie set up a number of institutions dedicated to the arts, teaching, scientific research and the humanities. He used the bulk of the $480 million he got from the sale of his business to endow Carnegie Corp. of New York, an umbrella body for dispensing cash. In 1919 a volume entitled A Manual of the Public Benefactions of Andrew Carnegie listed a vast number of projects, including 7,689 church organs and 2,811 free public libraries, on which a total of $350,695,653 had been spent.
This set a pattern that other rich men, led by John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford, followed. These entrepreneurs made their millions by reducing prices Carnegie, steel; Rockefeller, kerosene and other basic products; and Ford by producing cheap, sturdy, reliable cars. Countless millions of housewives, farmers, consumers and manufacturers benefited. And the overwhelming mass of these capitalists' earnings went back to the American public through their charitable foundations.
EFFECTING A POSITIVE CHANGE
The tradition of businessmen leaving their wealth to the nation is a peculiarly American virtue. In Britain and Europe (and, more recently, Asia) the tendency has been to "keep it in the family," but rich, self-made Americans have been loath to give their children much more than a good upbringing and education. As a result the U.S. has more well-endowed universities and more elite scientific and technical institutions and first-class art galleries than the rest of the world put together. This helps to explain why for a quarter of a millennium the U.S. has remained ahead of other countries in the race to give its people a better, richer and fuller life. And, of course, that is exactly what Smithson intended and hoped would happen.
Two of the 20th century's most ingenious wealth creators, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, have decided to follow in the footsteps of Smithson and Carnegie. However, I hope they and those who follow will learn from the past. Corporations that dispense vast sums of money, however benevolent in theory, are not always wise in practice. Clever men and women on the left, whose lives are driven by the lust for power and a taste for social engineering, have a gift for infiltrating charitable institutions and gaining control of their spending programs.
I am often astonished by the way in which corporations that were created by the fruits of capitalism shamelessly finance bodies and individuals whose objectives are to undermine the capitalist system, destroying private enterprise and the free market. I wish some well-endowed institution the Smithsonian, for example would commission a thorough investigation of this kind of philanthropy in the U.S., showing exactly how the money has been used and how far or close that's been to the intentions of the founders. Such a study would provide future benefactors with practical advice on what to avoid when setting up their foundations.
Another equally important purpose would be to gain insight, based on accurate historical experience, into how tax policies have adversely affected philanthropies and how to reshape those policies to effect a positive change. The spirit of generosity in American private enterprise has never been stronger than it is today. But we must ensure that it is not frustrated by legislative folly, administrative barriers and the sinister activities of ideological fanatics burrowing into the warm woodwork of generosity.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
|BUY THE BOOK|
Click HERE to purchase it at a discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).
Eminent British historian and author Paul Johnson's latest book is "American Presidents Eminent Lives Boxed Set: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant". Comment by clicking here.
03/07/07: American idealism and realpolitik
11/28/06: Space: Our ticket to survival
10/24/06: Envy is bad economics
10/11/06: Better to Borrow or Lend? Rethinking conventional wisdom
08/22/06: Don't practice legal terrorism
08/08/06: A summer rhapsody for a pedal-bike
08/03/06: Why is there no workable philosophy of music?
07/11/06: Historically speaking, energy crisis is America's opportunity
07/06/06: The misleading dimensions of persons and lives
06/06/06: First editions are not gold
05/23/06: A downright ugly man need never despair of attracting women, even pretty
04/25/06: Was Washington right about political parties?
04/12/06: Let's Have More Babies!
04/05/06: For the love of trains
03/29/06: Lincoln and the Compensation Culture
03/22/06: Bottle-beauties and the globalised blond beast
03/15/06: Europe's utopian hangover
03/08/06: Kindly write on only one side of the paper
02/28/06: Creators versus critics
02/21/06: The Rhino Principle
© 2006, Paul Johnson