Why Philanthropy Matters: How the Wealthy Give, and What It Means for Our Economic Well-Being

Overview

"This marvelous and insightful book provides, to my knowledge, the first link between the philanthropist and economic performance. Exceptionally original and a pleasure to read, it will induce many scholars and policymakers to reconsider the way they think about the economy and the important role played by philanthropy."—David B. Audretsch, Indiana University

"Why Philanthropy Matters argues that philanthropy is the institutional element that enables the creation of great wealth...

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Why Philanthropy Matters: How the Wealthy Give, and What It Means for Our Economic Well-Being

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Overview

"This marvelous and insightful book provides, to my knowledge, the first link between the philanthropist and economic performance. Exceptionally original and a pleasure to read, it will induce many scholars and policymakers to reconsider the way they think about the economy and the important role played by philanthropy."—David B. Audretsch, Indiana University

"Why Philanthropy Matters argues that philanthropy is the institutional element that enables the creation of great wealth and the recycling of that wealth across generations. With timely and well-grounded arguments, this breakthrough book offers a new vision of philanthropy's place in American economic thought."—Roger R. Stough, George Mason University

"This thought-provoking book provides a deeper understanding of how the market-based capitalist system works and how it has helped to increase societal prosperity. Acs puts the role of the philanthropist in historical and institutional context, and his insights will be of considerable interest to a broad audience."—Pontus Braunerhjelm, Royal Institute of Technology

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While philanthropy is generally seen as a positive practice, few view it as a sustaining capitalistic force that drives the economy. Acs (Entrepreneurship, Geography, and American Economic Growth) seeks to change this in an informative and enlightening, though dense, look at philanthropy’s many positive repercussions. The author views philanthropy as an equalizer that contributes to a more just society by helping those most in need. Expanding upon philanthropy’s ability to create opportunity to “better society in the long run,” he identifies four defining virtues of capitalism: opportunity, entrepreneurship and innovation, wealth creation, and philanthropy. He devotes chapters to each and assesses how America’s track record with these traits compares with that of other major countries. He also explores how philanthropy strengthens capitalism by supporting new cycles of innovation and enterprise as well as offering a way for old wealth to be reinvested. Particularly refreshing is the epilogue, which advocates changing tax laws to create incentives that reward “investments that would benefit society.” Economists will find this book helpful in crystallizing the long-term impact of philanthropy and the degree to which it influences the American economy. (Mar.)
Wall Street Journal - Leslie Lenkowsky
In The Gospel of Wealth (1889), Andrew Carnegie urged his prosperous contemporaries to avoid 'hoarding great sums' and to give their 'surplus' wealth away during their lifetimes, to strengthen an economic system that might thereby produce some riches for all. In the more measured tones of an economist, Mr. Acs is making much the same point: A capitalist economy not only enables but requires philanthropy. Through it, entrepreneurs can support the kinds of institutions that generate discoveries and that provide pathways for other people to make their own fortunes.
Tulsa World - Glenn C. Altschuler
Acs' effort to link philanthropy to greater income equality, opportunity and security is admirable and potentially important.
Marginal Revolution - Tyler Cowen
The best pro-philanthropy book I know.
Philanthropy Magazine - Evan Sparks
Acs' major achievement here is to understand philanthropy's oft-neglected and uniquely American role in economic growth.
Financial Times - Luke Johnson
[E]asily the best work on the subject I have read.
From the Publisher
Finalist for the 2014 George R. Terry Book Award, Academy of Management

"In The Gospel of Wealth (1889), Andrew Carnegie urged his prosperous contemporaries to avoid 'hoarding great sums' and to give their 'surplus' wealth away during their lifetimes, to strengthen an economic system that might thereby produce some riches for all. In the more measured tones of an economist, Mr. Acs is making much the same point: A capitalist economy not only enables but requires philanthropy. Through it, entrepreneurs can support the kinds of institutions that generate discoveries and that provide pathways for other people to make their own fortunes."—Leslie Lenkowsky, Wall Street Journal

"While philanthropy is generally seen as a positive practice, few view it as a sustaining capitalistic force that drives the economy. Acs seeks to change this in an informative and enlightening . . . look at philanthropy's many positive repercussions. . . . Economists will find this book helpful in crystallizing the long-term impact of philanthropy and the degree to which it influences the American economy."—Publishers Weekly

"Acs' effort to link philanthropy to greater income equality, opportunity and security is admirable and potentially important."—Glenn C. Altschuler, Tulsa World

"The best pro-philanthropy book I know."—Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

"Drawing on research conducted over 30-plus years, Acs's examination documents historically how philanthropy has affected and been affected by the entrepreneurial spirit unique to the American economic system. . . . This is a worthwhile read for U.S. economists as well as those wishing to understand how American-style capitalism and philanthropy create innovation."—Elizabeth Nelson, Library Journal

"Acs develops an interesting account of American economic history as he traces the activities of philanthropists across the decades."—Kirkus Reviews

"Acs' major achievement here is to understand philanthropy's oft-neglected and uniquely American role in economic growth."—Evan Sparks, Philanthropy Magazine

"[E]asily the best work on the subject I have read."—Luke Johnson, Financial Times

"The book is fast paced and highly readable."—Kathi Coon Badertscher, Enterprise & Society

"Acs offers a well-written, well-researched account of the evolution of American capitalism."—Choice

Library Journal
According to Acs (univ. professor & director, Ctr. for Entrepreneurship & Public Policy, George Mason Univ.; coauthor, Entrepreneurship, Geography, and American Economic Growth), philanthropy has played an essential role in the U.S. economy and American-style capitalism since the 18th century. Drawing on research conducted over 30-plus years, Acs's examination documents historically how philanthropy has affected and been affected by the entrepreneurial spirit unique to the American economic system. He guides readers through an overview of how philanthropic practices in the United States create more wealth by distributing funds outside of wealthy families, using examples of recognizable philanthropists including Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett. For Acs, philanthropy is the way opportunity is created and capitalism is enhanced; by supporting innovation beyond the limits of government funding, its impact is long-term. VERDICT This is a worthwhile read for U.S. economists as well as those wishing to understand how American-style capitalism and philanthropy create innovation.—Elizabeth Nelson, UOP Libs., Des Plaines, IL
Kirkus Reviews
Acs (Entrepreneurship and Public Policy/George Mason Univ.; Entrepreneurship, Geography, and American Economic Growth, 2006, etc.) argues that philanthropy's contribution to American capitalism is unique. The author distinguishes between philanthropy's investmentlike reciprocal character, which "requires the recipient to make some investment" of time or energy from the charity, and alms-giving to meet current needs. Acs conceives of capitalism as resting on four pillars--"opportunity, innovation, wealth, and philanthropy"--and he presents the view that what "differentiates American capitalism from all other forms of capitalism" is this philanthropy-fueled creation of opportunity. The author provides his answers for two related questions: How does one convince the wealthy to give to create opportunity for others, and to which organizations or individuals should they give? Acs develops an interesting account of American economic history as he traces the activities of philanthropists across the decades. He highlights many cases, including George Peabody's precedent-setting educational foundation in Baltimore, which was established in the 18th century. Acs also assesses individuals and families who have sought to create institutional forms of wealth transmission across the generations, and he examines the evolution of trusts and similar institutions. He features the Rockefeller and Ford families, and their eponymous foundations, as exemplars of success, and he repeatedly references the Stanford family's role in California's private higher education system. The author presents education and health as viable areas in which philanthropy can continue to thrive, and he prods today's newly wealthy, like the founders of eBay, Google and Facebook, to follow the examples of their predecessors. A mostly intriguing analysis of how "to understand philanthropy is to understand something about the American psyche and its fidelity to promoting enterprise and opportunity."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691148625
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 2/24/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,006,396
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Zoltan J. Acs is University Professor and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Public Policy in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University. He is the coauthor of "Entrepreneurship, Geography, and American Economic Growth".

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Chapter 1. A Conversation 1
Chapter 2. Creating Opportunity 19
Chapter 3. Entrepreneurship and Innovation 46
Chapter 4. The Wealth of Nations 86
Chapter 5. Charity and Philanthropy 121
Chapter 6. American-Style Capitalism 149
Chapter 7. The Global Perspective 176
Epilogue Changing the Tax Laws 200
Pledge Letters 205
Notes 227
Index 241

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