Philanthropy & Liberty

Philanthropy & Liberty is our flagship workshop and conference program that supports scholarly inquiry, exchange, and publication to deepen our understanding of emerging questions in social thought, especially on issues pertaining to philanthropy, voluntary association, and their role in advancing human freedom and flourishing.  

The Philanthropic Enterprise seeks to renew our understanding not only of the history and theory of philanthropy but of the relationship between liberty and philanthropy. What are the cultural (and psychological) practices embedded in our traditions of giving, mutual aid, and self-help? What are the social virtues that help people harmonize their interests, discover their mutual sympathy, and form flourishing communities?

How do private charitable activity and institutional philanthropy adapt to or transform these practices? In what ways can philanthropy enhance personal liberty and responsibility while promoting the flourishing of a free and humane society? What role do philanthropy and voluntary action play alongside rule of law and free markets in promoting what it means to be human?

Our answers to these questions will inform the policy climate that impacts the context and content of our practices of giving and voluntary association. Our renewed understanding of philanthropy and social process should inform our social arrangements and the ways in which philanthropists deploy resources to help communities adapt to the biological, technological, and cultural challenges of an ever-changing world. Philanthropy depends on the recognition of private property and the belief that donor intent can help generate public benefit, rightly understood. There remain gaps in our understanding of the relationship between private and voluntary philanthropy and welfare-state redistribution of resources for public benefit. In addition, we need to deepen our understanding of the legal status and social functions of private endowments, perpetuities, and trusts, as well as the rationale for tax exemptions and charitable deductions.


Past Programs have included:

Philanthropy, Prosperity, & Pauperism (2014)
A graduate student colloquium

New Work for Invisible Hands (2012)
A colloquium in memory of Richard Cornuelle

Law and Philanthropy (2011)
Co-directed by G.M. Curtis, professor emeritus, Hanover College

Civility, Responsibility, and Philanthropy (2010)
Inaugural editorial board meeting for Conversations on Philanthropy

Re-imagining Philanthropy: Myths & Opportunities (2009)
Co-directed by Heather Wood Ion, Director, Athena Charitable Trust

The Commerce of Neighbors: Philanthropy as Emergent Order (2008)
Co-directed by Robert F. Garnett, Jr., Associate Professor of Economics, Texas Christian University

The Pursuit of Happiness: Positive Psychology and the Philanthropic Enterprise (2007)
Co-directed by Richard Gunderman, M.D., Professor of Radiology, Pediatrics, Medical Education, Philosophy, Liberal Arts, Philanthropy, and in the Honors College at Indiana University.

The Hoover-Roosevelt Conversation (2006)
Co-directed by Gordon Lloyd, Professor of Public Policy, Pepperdine University

Philanthropy as a Discovery Process (2005)
Co-directed by Emily Chamlee-Wright, Associate Professor of Economics, Beloit College

The Legacy of Kenneth Boulding (2004)
Co-directed by David Prychitko, Professor of Economics, University of Northern Michigan

Progressivism and Philanthropy (2003)
Co-sponsored by the Bradley Center on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal

The Philanthropic Enterprise (2002)
Directed by Lenore Ealy