Welcome to Beneficence!
Welcome to Beneficence, the quarterly newsletter of The Philanthropic Enterprise! Available free upon request, Beneficence provides a venue for sharing new insights and reflections on the role of philanthropy in a free society.
Richard Cornuelle (1927–2011), whose work inspired The Philanthropic Enterprise, proposed that a good society is that which emerges from “millions and millions of small caring acts, repeated day after day, until direct mutual action becomes second nature and to see a problem is to begin to wonder how best to act on it.” Cornuelle was optimistic about the American character and believed in our human capacities for creativity and generosity and association—traits that gave rise to the most expansively wealth-creating and philanthropic nation in history.
The great classical liberal economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith observed that “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.” Throughout history, charitable giving and voluntary association have provided important means through which people exercise the beneficent social virtues—including civility, liberality, charity, voluntary association, and mutual aid.
But the propensity for beneficence, like the habits of liberty itself, must be trained and exercised.
Our understanding of these virtues—and the independent civil society in which they are cultivated and practiced—is seriously threatened by the ever-increasing intrusion of government into the lives of Americans. As the regulatory welfare state has expanded, too many in our society now ask first what government should be doing about the challenges we face. Too many benevolent organizations now look primarily to government for direction and funding. This over-reliance on government in the conduct of our lives is neither economically sustainable nor morally desirable.
The Philanthropic Enterprise is a research and educational institute that seeks to restore and deepen our understanding of how philanthropy and voluntary social cooperation promote human flourishing and freedom. Through book reviews and essays, Beneficence invites you to reflect with us about the way a free society works, to reconsider the ends and means of philanthropy in advancing human dignity and excellence, and to engage in the philanthropic enterprise with a whole heart and a whole mind.
Lenore T. Ealy, Ph.D.
President, The Philanthropic Enterprise