David Rubenstein: Is philanthropy efficient?

American citizens give away more of their money than anyone else in the world.
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TRANSCRIPT

Well, the United States is very different than most other countries. We give a larger percent of our money away in the United States than other countries tend to do. The concept of this type of philanthropy in Europe is just not as common. The governments are expected to make these kinds of contributions. Perhaps it’s our tax code. Perhaps it’s our charitable nature that has left the United States in this very enviable position. I do think that it would be a mistake for the government to take a higher percentage of our net worth and then it decides where the charitable contributions go. Because there’s no evidence that government is better at deciding these kinds of things than the market itself. There will always be wealthy people who give away money in ways that seem ridiculous. There will always be money given away to pets or other kinds of things that seem strange to many others. But in the end I don’t think we should change our laws so that we have to deal with the one or two percent of the people who are doing things with their money that seem silly in some ways. I think by and large most of the people who have money are giving it away to productive causes. Now who is to say that giving money to the discoverer of . . . the potential discoverer of the cure for cancer is more valuable than somebody who gives money away to the opera? Opera is good, too, for society, so obviously there has to be some balance. I don’t really think we should have the government really getting deeply involved in trying to decide what people should do with money that they give away. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. Recorded on: 9/13/07