ON PHILANTHROPISTS AND THEIR ACTS OF PHILANTHROPY

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Dr. V.E.”Bill” Haloulakos is an AIAA National Distinguished Lecturer and a contibutor to The Business Thinker

The purpose of this article is to propose and “make the case” for an expanded definition of the words “Philanthropy” and “Philanthropist” which, is as follows:

Modern-Day Responsible Capitalism is the best example of true philanthropy.

It creates an environment of economic progress and free enterprise which allows individuals to improve themselves, provides employment for many people, who in turn improve their lot and that of their families, expands wealth, which then provides opportunity for all, including for the “not so entrepreneurial” individuals as well.

It is to be noted from the start that we are not suggesting that there are not predatory and/or corrupt capitalists who do damage and bring shame to the free market enterprising business. But we are discussing the great value of the majority of the consumer product and/or service oriented free enterprise operations that have advanced our country and the world economy to unforeseeable heights and great prosperity to its people.

A PROPOSED EXPANDED DEFINITION OF PHILANTHROPY

Enter Google with a question about philanthropy and philanthropists and you get a lengthy Wikipedia description of its history. It is noted that in the American definition of philanthropy and/or philanthropists are the great industrialists and wealthy tycoons the likes of Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller, et al, who formed their foundations to dispense part or all of their wealth to the less fortunate, needy, etc. In other words, those other wealthy tycoons, e.g. Steve Jobs, or Howard Hughes, who may not have formed foundations, are not qualified and hence they are not included among the philanthropists.

Elswhere in the Internet one finds the definition of “Who Is A Philanthropist” given as:

“A philanthropist is someone who engages in philanthropy; that is, someone who donates his or her time, money, and/or reputation to charitable causes. The term may apply to any volunteer or to anyone who makes a donation, but the label is most often applied to those who donate large sums of money or who make a major impact through their volunteering, such as a trustee who manages a philanthropic organization”.

The “common denominator” of these descriptions of philanthropy seems to be the absence of any tangible material return to the giver or participant. This can also mean that if there is widespread unemployment or famine in a region and an ambitious business person steps in, invests his entire holdings and creates a business and widespread employment and prosperity, then just because this investor may be making a profit, somehow all this “good” fortune that has been brought into the community does not qualify as philanthropy! As a matter of fact, there’s a great probability that that he will be tagged as an exploiter of the working poor, simply because he may be getting a return on his investment.

Recently we learned about the formation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which, with the participation of Warren Buffett, will endeavor to spend many millions or perhaps billions to help the needy and the poor. This now “qualifies” Bill gates as a philanthropist. It is inconceivable, however, that this foundation will benefit nearly even a minute fraction of the number of people, no matter how much money they dispense, as Bill Gates’ Microsoft Corporation has helped. Since the early 1980s Bill Gates and his partners via their Microsoft Corporation have changed the World forever and they have helped create many millions of millionaires who in turn have created many more millionaires of their own and so on…. Why is then not suitable to call all this great GOOD philanthropy? They have benefited and improved the life of so many, many people! Is it because they also became rich in the process? Yes, it must be so!

Similarly, Steve Jobs and Apple. How many millions of people have benefited and continue to benefit from the products of Apple? Can one imagine or contemplate a life without an i-Phone and an i-Pad? Why don’t they also qualify as philanthropists? Again it must be the fact that they also became rich! A few days following the death of Steve Jobs, this writer heard in a talk radio program a caller bemoaning the fact that “this greedy, selfish, etc., Steve Jobs had kept and was sitting on around eight billion dollars instead of giving it to the poor…”. The radio talk show host was prompt in explaining to this clueless caller, how Steve Jobs via his innovations and new products had benefited many hundreds of millions of people whose lives had improved substantially and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. In fact if one Googles “Steve Jobs Foundation” one will find out that at one time he had set up such a foundation but rescinded it after his return to head Apple. One will also find numerous articles, e.g. Peter Whoriskey in Washington Post October 6, 2011, decrying  “his lack of giving”, etc.

Likewise, the Ford Motor Company through its products and services has helped many more millions of people than the Ford Foundation will even dream of helping! So, again, why not classify Henry Ford, the man, as a philanthropist sans his Ford Foundation?

Howard Hughes founded the Hughes Aircraft Company, a Division of the (non-profit) Hughes Medical Institute. Thus, he provided jobs for over 100,000 persons; many thousands of them top scientists, whose inventions have resulted in many products, such as communications satellites, lasers and various forms of medical equipment. These products are benefiting mankind now and for many years into the foreseeable future.

Again, we ask the question “why have these benefits to such a large portion of humanity not qualified as philanthropy”?

One can go on and discuss the doings of all other industrial and business greats such as the Carnegies, the Mellons, and the Rockefellers and continue to ask the same question as to why they were not true philanthropists unless and until they formed their foundations with the explicit purpose to give away their wealth, whereas their original activities resulted in a lot more benefits to many, many more people?

The answer, of course, is obvious. The common denominator between all these industrial and business tycoons is that in their original and very successful activities they were “responsible” CAPITALISTS! A word that seems to denote a meaning that is far, very far away from that of philanthropy! However, in reality these are individuals who in the pursuit of their ideas for developing consumer products and/or services invested their own wealth, mostly at great risk, and set up organizations that employed many other people and all benefited as the enterprise succeeded. Henry Ford, for example, needed many hundreds of automobile dealers, a distribution network, servicing centers and on and on down to the local service station and the family automobile and the many others who used the automobile products to develop other business, e.g. transportation. All this activity enriched and improved the life of many hundreds of thousands of people, including, of course, Henry Ford himself. It should be noted here that if the consumer public did not choose to buy the products of the venture capitalist, be it Ford, gates, Jobs or any other, their investment would have been lost!

Which brings us to the main purpose of this article:  Philanthropy is an activity that helps and benefits humanity and it should not depend on whether the person involved receives any monetary benefit. Therefore, we propose a somewhat different definition for Philanthropy given below:

Modern-Day Responsible Capitalism is the best example of true philanthropy.

It creates an environment of economic progress and free enterprise which allows individuals to improve themselves, provides employment for many people, who in turn improve their lot and that of their families, expands wealth, which then provides opportunity for all, including for the “not so entrepreneurial” individuals as well.

SPECIAL NOTE: If one wishes to get particular and examine the benefits of the administrators of the various “Philanthropic Foundations” the findings invariably will be that many of these “do-gooders” reward themselves with enormous salaries and perks while they absolutely have no risk whatsoever!

The author:

Dr.  V. E. “Bill” Haloulakos, Adjunct Professor of Engineering at West Coast University for 30 years and recipient of WCU’s highest award, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Member of Board of Trustees.

Aerospace Science Consultant/Rocket Science Professor, an AIAA National Distinguished Lecturer

and the Distinguished Engineering Educator Award Winner

 

2 thoughts on “ON PHILANTHROPISTS AND THEIR ACTS OF PHILANTHROPY”

  1. Bill,
    I liked your philanthropy article on “responsible” capitalism. I have often thought of this approach, and it makes sense.
    Your arguments and examples are very good.
    Capitalism is some how “bad” because it is not “socialistic” enough…..giving more to the poor and redistribute our incomes. Always a good subject to debate.
    Our current leader…. BHO is on the wrong side of history!

    I also liked the article on Greece. We in this country need to look at their problems and solutions, as well.
    Thanks,
    Dave

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