Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Zoltan J. Acs's "Why Philanthropy Matters"

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.

Acs applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Why Philanthropy Matters: How the Wealthy Give, and What It Means for Our Economic Well-Being, and reported the following:
Philanthropy has long been a distinctive feature of American culture, but its crucial role in the economic well-being of the nation has remained largely unexplored. Why Philanthropy Matters takes an in-depth look at philanthropy as an underappreciated force in capitalism, measures its critical influence on the free-market system, and demonstrates how American philanthropy could serve as a model for other countries. Philanthropy has helped address America's problem of wealth by serving two basic functions. It releases the concentration of wealth at the top of society while building institutions that support opportunity for future Americans.

On page 99, much to my surprise, we find that credit for the American invention of philanthropy should be given to the influential and successful Baltimore investor George Peabody, a descendent of Massachusetts Puritans who was born in 1795.
Despite the mark he made on finance in Baltimore, Peabody's most enduring influence lies in the precedents and policies established by the Peabody Education Fund trustees. This fund innovated the operational patterns of later major foundations, including John D. Rockefeller's Education Board, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Carnegie Foundation. According to Peabody's biographer, Franklin Parker, "George Peabody was in fact the originator of that system of endowed foundations for public purposes which has reached its highest development in the United States.... It is interesting to consider the many ways in which the example set by [George Peabody] has been followed by visioned men of means in the United States.... In a sense the Peabody Fund was not the only monument to George Peabody, for the example he set has been followed by a host of other Americans."
Philanthropy gives an edge to capitalism by promoting vital forces, like university research, necessary for technological innovation, economic equality and economic security.
Learn more about Why Philanthropy Matters at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue