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The Forum > Article Comments > On philanthropy, especially in Australia > Comments

On philanthropy, especially in Australia : Comments

By Don Aitkin, published 10/7/2013

Not only is Australia not like the US, but no country of which I am aware has a philanthropic culture like the US - and there's a good reason.

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Don

You raise some interesting points, but I think there may be other factors at play. It is not only Australia that lacks a culture of philanthropy compared to the USA, but also much of Europe and, most relevantly, the UK. Our comparative stinginess reflects an ideological inheritance from the mother country, not a different pattern of economic development.

In particular, I think philanthropy is necessary and moderating counterpoint to the USAís individualistic culture and comparatively under-developed state sector. In social democracies we expect the state to care for the disadvantaged and provide cultural public goods like museums and art galleries. We also expect the rich to contribute disproportionately to these activities, but they do so through comparatively high and more steeply progressive taxation. In the USA the rich personís obligation to the community is expressed as a personal and voluntary duty, and far less through state-mandated redistribution, hence its traditions of philanthropy.

In general, across rich countries there is an inverse relationship between taxation as a percentage of GDP and philanthropy.

Which system is best depends on your ideological predispositions, I suppose. State-mandated redistribution seems to deliver more resources to the disadvantaged and public uses, but I wonder if something is lost when responsibility for others is a legal inevitability rather than a moral duty.

This is mainly an issue for the rich. The percentage of Australians who give money to charity is amongst the highest in the world, but the percentage of GDP donated is smaller, in part I guess because we do not have as many very large donations by the rich.
Posted by Rhian, Wednesday, 10 July 2013 1:06:02 PM
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The rich are entitled to do whatever they want (legally) with their money as are the rest of us. The idea, which is generally fostered by the Left, that the rich should be forced to part with their money is generated more by jealousy than public benefit and based on the false idea that the money doesn't belong to them. Yet, as we have seen,its the corrupt Union officials and dodgy Labor Party ministers who are most prone to misappropriate public funds.

Rich Australians will become more philanthropic when people stop being jealous of the wealthy, despise them less and admire their achievements like they do in the US and not see them as possessing stolen goods.
Posted by Atman, Wednesday, 10 July 2013 2:32:11 PM
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What a nonsense this article is!

Don is right about one thing. The U.S. keeps on giving! For example, it loves occupation and plundering. No pirates have ever done more.

It gives tonnes of depleted uranium to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan so they can be faced with the horrors of deformed births for ever.

It gives copious amounts of money to dictators whose interests correspond to its own. It spares no expense to spy on the world. It engages in rendition and torture with real enthusiasm and implies to recalcitrant nations if they don't toe the line they'll face nuclear oblivion. It has more oligarchs than most other countries combined and they have more loot than the other 99% of American citizens. It has killed millions since it was beaten in Vietnam and destroyed whole countries. It is currently engaged in trying to achieve gloabal domination...

Anyone who holds up the U.S. as a positive influence in the world is clearly deranged.
Posted by David G, Wednesday, 10 July 2013 4:01:09 PM
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I wonder if the US has, or did have, Death Duties, which are certainly a dampener on philanthropy in the waning stages of life. Thank heavens they no longer apply in Oz. I also wonder if they still apply in the UK?

I have the impression that the US offers substantial tax benefits for charitable or public donations - such as donations of art to public galleries - and whereby a tax deduction at 'market value' may be gained for such donations, rather than being based on original purchase cost - and with the same applying to donations of equities/shares, whereby one would conceivably avoid the equivalent of our Capital Gains Tax, as well as gaining a full deduction based on current market value?
So, it appears there may be a tax-minimization component to some US philanthropy? (But then, maybe similar facilities apply in Oz?)

I also wonder if some of the US philanthropy is not somewhat paradoxical, in that some extraordinary wealth has been obtained as spoils of war - even via participation in Iraqi 'reconstruction', and via investment in 'defence' industries and such; and otherwise through neo- or quasi-colonial acquisition.
Hence, some such philanthropy tends to smack of 'nationalism', whereby the spoils from international and multinational endeavours are at least in part redistributed 'at home', for purpose of bolstering the national US ego, charisma and image as 'the' global presence and power.

Being a relative 'fledgling', and a relative 'runt', in Oz we tend to do things for the 'small picture', for the local good - such as volunteering, as has been mentioned, and in direct support of the likes of the 'Salvos', Vinnies and Care-flight - and of course we have rather few 'mega-wealthy' individuals.
(And even Rupert took his ball and ran to 'greener' pastures.)

We may not have quite grown into our boots as yet, but I wouldn't swap, not for quids.
(Whenever we went (or go) to war it was/is in philanthropy and sacrifice - and never with thoughts of making a profit.
And I don't consider us 'mugs' for this approach.)
Posted by Saltpetre, Wednesday, 10 July 2013 5:04:01 PM
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Anyone who holds up the U.S. as a positive influence in the world is clearly deranged.
David G,
Even more deranged are the bashers of the USA. They should proof that they could survive a single day without anything to do with the US & see how they'd manage. Maggots can't feed once the carcass is gone so, what would you do to get by ?
Posted by individual, Wednesday, 10 July 2013 7:40:26 PM
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Individual, your comment is so infantile and silly that it deserves no reply.

Sadly, of course, there are many Australians who..., I was going to say 'think like you' but of course you don't think, you just follow the herd who, like you, are caught in a 1945 time warp!

Bbbbbbbbbaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Posted by David G, Thursday, 11 July 2013 7:41:21 AM
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