David Rubenstein: Is philanthropy efficient?
David M. Rubenstein is a Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms. Mr. Rubenstein co-founded the firm in 1987. Since then, Carlyle has grown into a firm managing more than $85 billion from 29 offices around the world. Prior to co-founding Carlyle in 1987, Mr. Rubenstein practiced law in New York, with the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; served as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy in the Carter administration; and practiced law in Washington, D.C., with the firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge. Mr. Rubenstein is a member of the Board of Directors of The Council on Foreign Relations, the Institute for International Economics and Freedom House; the Board of Trustees of Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Dance Theatre of Harlem; and a member of the Visiting Committee of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the National Advisory Committee of J.P. Morgan Chase. He is based in Washington, DC.
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
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