Saturday, July 31, 2004
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The Economist on philanthropy
The Economist runs a fascinating article on the current state of philanthropy in America and Europe. One highlight:
This does not mean that Europeans are less charitable, but rather that there's a substitution effect at work. Most Europeans devote more time (i.e., voluntering) than money compared with Americans. Here's a graph and everything:
One caveat -- the data in this graph does not cover donations to religious congregations, which depresses the American figure. The Israeli figure might actually be inflated, because it includes charitable gifts from abroad.
The article goes on to observe that the organization of the philanthropic sector is also changing -- for the better:
Read the whole thing.posted by Dan on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM
It is important to me exactly where the "charitable" giving is going. According to my information, the majority of the rich do not give to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, but endow chairs at Harvard or donate their art collections to museums.posted by: bob mcmanus on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
"In America, says Felicity von Peter, who organised a workshop on giving for the Bertelsmann Foundation, donors believe that they can spend money more effectively than the state."
Meaning, the wealthy can spend money so that their socio-economic status is maintatined. See Robert Arnove's 'Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism' for a compelling series of essays, one of the better essays is "American Philanthropy and the Social Sciences: The Reproduction of a Conservative Ideology" by Donald Fisher.
Another great read to bolster the above claim is William Watkins' 'The White Architects of Black Education'. Watkins looks at the philathropy circa turn of the century showing how giving was rooted in the scientism, social darwinism, and eugenics movements of the times thus reinforcing the racist threories of black inferiority.
As above, both texts point to the power philanthropies have to create and perpetuate conservative ideology (often exemplified in the relationship of philanthropies to science); the power inherent in the giving power of philanthropies to shape social policy that avoids and influences the democratic process, i.e., making laws.posted by: jonk on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
IE addressing social problems outside of government programs is pernicious because it advances a social theory? It would follow then that government programs arent judged by their effectiveness but by how well they advance social engineering. But we knew that.posted by: mark buehner on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
There are SO many things wrong with what you said, who even knows where to start....?
1) Just because an academic said it doesn't make it true. That's true with the academics whom Watkins describes, but it's also true of both Arnove and Fisher. Both authors (Arnove and Fisher that is) represent a typically Marxist viewpoint which holds that any exercise of capital (be it charity, entrepreneurialism, or otherwise) is basically an aggressive act perpetrated on a weaker population (i.e., the “victims”). As usual, it begs the question what do we do about the needy, if anytime we seek to help them it’s an act of aggression?
There is a tacit assumption that the Marxist interpretation is correct, but it’s not. Period. The needs of the less fortunate are ONLY met through an expansion of opportunity through job growth (in today’s parlance: globalization), or through charity. That these are necessarily evil is essentially a (Marxist) religious viewpoint, without merit, i.e., without any rational foundation.
Any time the state is involved in “meeting” the needs of the poverty-stricken and ill, massive amounts of inefficiency, bungling, and corruption are introduced.
2) I happen to agree with Watkins, insofar as he is giving a HISTORICAL description. I submit, however, that the very type of program he describes is very much alive and kicking today, as the basic platform of the Democratic party. Ted Kennedy is a racist who supports policies which INTENTIONALLY keep minorities in positions of victimhood. He does this in order to maintain a needy constituency of victims. Sen. Kennedy (and Kerry) are EXACTLY the kinds of people Watkins is describing.
3) Arnove states in his introduction: “[The philanthropists’] humanitarianism was shaped by their ethnocentrism, their class interests, and their support for the imperialist objectives of their own country. By the time their humanitarianism was expressed in programs, it was so intertwined with the interests of American capitalism as to be undistinguishable.” (Arnove, p. 10).
YOU stated: “As above, both texts point to the power philanthropies have to create and perpetuate conservative ideology (often exemplified in the relationship of philanthropies to science); the power inherent in the giving power of philanthropies to shape social policy that avoids and influences the democratic process, i.e., making laws.”
Even if we stipulate that Arnove’s description is true (and I don’t!), it must be true for ANY act of charity, regardless of whether or not said organization is conservative or liberal. You are categorically incorrect in asserting that this is (implicitly) only a CONSERVATIVE phenomenon.
Consider the massive act of charity being done by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for AIDS. Millions (perhaps billions) has been given to a cause which most social conservatives believe is better served by abstinence from promiscuous sex and from drug use. Bill Gates’s act of charity is NOT promoting a conservative ideology. Neither, I submit is Habitat for Humanity promoting a conservative cause. In fact, I can’t think of single (legitimate, e.g., not these Muslim groups acting as charities and then funneling money to terrorists) charity which does! (And just you TRY and bring up the Salvation Army, just TRY it!! I will HAMMER you with facts!)
So, Junk, you are categorically wrong and hereby dismissed on all counts…
The finding that Europeans volunteer more than Americans is the surprising part of this article (and the Salamon study). Salamon is a serious researcher and this project has been done with a good deal of rigor. But, for anyone who spends much time in Europe, it is hard to believe that the French are volunteering more than Americans. It would be interesting to know where they spend their time since many of the traditional services provided by volunteers in the US are handled by the state in France.posted by: Craig on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
"Here's a graph and everything: "
I am with Craig, on this one.
Of course the french do work less so they do have time to volunteer, i will conceed that point. I would even conceed that more time is donated by members of other countires.
Though i would like to see figures of how many manhours the money bought.
For example: for a person who gets paid 20 dollars an hour it may be better for them to donate the money equal to 5 hours of work, so that the charity can buy 10 hours of cheap labor to feed people.posted by: cubicle on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
I suspect that much of the "volunteer" data comes from organizations such as Medecine sans Frontieres, although as I understand it, the doctors who work for that group aren't actually volunteers per se...they receive a subsudy from the government, and the home office of the organization does as well. I find the fact that Tanzania is even on the list to be mind-blowing.
Ericposted by: Eric on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
The Johns Hopkins data excludes giving to churches, etc. Before anyone cries foul, their reasons were understandable, and the graph above does try hard to compare apples with apples.
However, it is likely that the US and Israeli numbers would look different if tallied a different way.posted by: Assistant Village Idiot on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
Foreign Policy had a story on this in its last issue, with graphs too. I don't remember what it said though. You can go check it out if you care, just letting you know that it's out there. And thats about all I have to say on that.posted by: Danny on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
I wonder to what extent "duplication of effort" makes charitable gift giving and receiving less efficient?
Presumably every receiving organization staffs gift solicitors, receivers and money managers. Every giving organization staffs givers... What percentage of gift giving is lost to covering this overhead?
Does an "umbrella" model like The United Way help reduce this overhead and get more money "on the street?"
Liberal Avenger --
The United Way is among the least efficient of charitable organizations, with overhead somewhere in the 33% range. The Salvation Army on the other hand, has overhead in the 3% range (meaning 97 cents out of every dollar given actually gets into the hands of the needy). The Salvation Army is known to be the most effient charity in the world. I will try to find a link with these figures.
Ericposted by: Eric on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
This is a stupid article which conveniently ignores some harsh facts. One should care less what the Europeans presumable give to charity. They mooch off the United States regarding their military spending. We are the primary protectors of the world. Our tax dollars stand between the survival of civilization and its utter destruction.posted by: David Thomson on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
I'm skeptical about the figures in the graph purporting to show that philanthropic volunteerism is higher in European countries than in the US. Most Scandinavian countries list special interest clubs - chess clubs, motorcycle clubs, sports clubs - as private, non-governmental entities akin to philanthropic organizations.
The graph is also misleading as it measures giving as a percentage of GDP, instead of population. A cursory look at the implied statistics in the graph points to the US as the ultimate leader, if contribution vs. population is factored in. The US is still clearly a greater philanthropist, simply because the US GDP is so great; (the graph omits info on GDP... why??) Divide that by the smaller US population vs. the aggregate EU countries, and you have the US in the lead.
Having lived in Finland, let me assure you: Americans give more in terms of time and money than any Scandinavian does.
An "exercize of capital" need not be characterized as "an aggressive act", it may be thought of an an exercize of power which is a more nuanced read, difficult to deny, and does not situate the "weaker population" without agency, as your strawman implied.
I am glad to know that "[t]he needs of the less fortunate are ONLY met through an expansion of opportunity through job growth (in today’s parlance: globalization), or through charity." - thanks for clearing that up;)
I do not disagree with you about racist policies from the Democratic party, where on earth does that assumption come from? This does not mean that racist policy does not also come out of the Republican party. Points I was not attempting to make in my previous post.
Read 'conservative' in my statement "perpetuate conservative ideology" in the broadest sense of opposing change - to support the status quo. At best, philanthropy is a reformist endeavor, at worst social engineering in the interests of those designing policy.posted by: jonk on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
Thank you, Eric. That is helpful information.posted by: The Liberal Avenger on 07.31.04 at 10:47 AM [permalink]
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