Richard C. Cornuelle

Visionary Behind The Philanthropic Enterprise

Richard C. Cornuelle was a leading figure in the post-World War II libertarian movement who became one of our country’s most insightful analysts of philanthropy and civil society. His 1965 book, Reclaiming the American Dream, coined the term “the independent sector.” In Reclaiming, Dick first set out his suspicion that the intellectual case for the free society was most vulnerable where civil society intersected with the welfare state.

The twilight of the Communist era vindicated the economic superiority of the free enterprise system to communism and state socialism, but Dick saw that the social theory of liberty was not yet triumphant. Libertarians had not yet developed a satisfying theory of community, and the libertarian critique of centralized state power needed to include positive support for thriving voluntary associations and philanthropy, as well as business firms.

In the early 1960’s, Dick’s intellectual and professional interests came to turn around a focal question:

How can we restore and sustain the confidence and vitality of the American people and help them reclaim their energetic and independent traditions of mutual aid, charity, and voluntary association?

For the next 50 years, Dick would engage people in rethinking the rationale for and practices of private philanthropy and what he called “voluntary welfare.”

In 1949, F. A. Hayek had observed the need to “make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds.”

By 1999, Dick understood well that the primary obstacle to a more flourishing and humane society lay not in people’s capabilities but in their conceptions, and in the way these conceptions were institutionalized in social, political, and economic formations of our culture. He thus initiated new projects to engage scholars and intellectuals in advancing our understanding the nature and operation of free institutions (the study of spontaneous orders) and in renewing our traditions of free association and independent philanthropy.

When Dick passed away in 2011, we formally launched The Philanthropic Enterprise to continue this important work. We currently operate as an Indiana not-for-profit corporation.  (Application for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status is pending with the Internal Revenue Service.)


forthcoming. Conversations on Philanthropy, Volume X: The Legacy of Richard C. Cornuelle

DVD. The Intellectual Portrait Series: A Conversation with Richard Cornuelle (2002).

Lenore T. Ealy, “Richard C. Cornuelle and the Revolution of Social Responsibility,” Society, Vol 48, No 6 (2011), 510-516.

Tributes & Remembrances by Lenore Ealy, Peter Boettke, Bill Dennis, William Schambra, Nick Snow, Jeffrey Friedman, Gus diZerega, Brian Doherty, Scott Walter, Jay Hein, USA Funds, the National Association of Manufacturers, and The New York Times.

The Richard C. Cornuelle Award for Social Entrepreneurship, Manhattan Institute

Richard C. Cornuelle

Selected Bibliography


1965            Reclaiming the American Dream:  The Role of Private Individuals and Voluntary Associations.  New York:  Random House.

1968            The New Conservative-Liberal Manifesto.  With Robert H. Finch.  San Diego, California:  Viewpoint Books.

1975            De-Managing America:  The Final Revolution.  New York:  Random House.

1983            Healing America:  What Can Be Done About the Continuing Economic Crisis.  New York:  G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

1993            Reclaiming the American Dream.  With a New Introduction by Frank Annunziata and an Afterword by the Author.  Reprint, New Brunswick:  Transaction Publishers.

Articles & Speeches (selected)

1950            “Up, the Welfare State!”  American Affairs, October 1950.

1986            “YMCA:  Who Needs It?”  Discovery YMCA, Fall 1986.

1991            “New work for invisible hands:  A future for libertarian thought.”  The Times Literary Supplement.  April 5, 1991.

A longer version published as, “The Power and Poverty of Libertarian Thought,” Critical Review 6(1)

1993            “The First Libertarian Revival and the Next:  Where We Were and Where We Are.”  Critical Review.  April 1993.

1993            “The Libertarian Task in the Next Half Century.”  Remarks at the Annual Dinner of the Institute for Humane Studies, Ritz Carlton Hotel, McLean, VA, November 4.

1996            “De-nationalizing Community,” Philanthropy