Acs (Entrepreneurship and Public Policy/George Mason Univ.; Entrepreneurship, Geography, and American Economic Growth, 2006, etc.) argues that philanthropy's contribution to American capitalism is unique.
The author distinguishes between philanthropy's investmentlike reciprocal character, which “requires the recipient to make some investment” of time or energy from the charity, and alms-giving to meet current needs. Acs conceives of capitalism as resting on four pillars—“opportunity, innovation, wealth, and philanthropy”—and he presents the view that what “differentiates American capitalism from all other forms of capitalism” is this philanthropy-fueled creation of opportunity. The author provides his answers for two related questions: How does one convince the wealthy to give to create opportunity for others, and to which organizations or individuals should they give? Acs develops an interesting account of American economic history as he traces the activities of philanthropists across the decades. He highlights many cases, including George Peabody's precedent-setting educational foundation in Baltimore, which was established in the 18th century. Acs also assesses individuals and families who have sought to create institutional forms of wealth transmission across the generations, and he examines the evolution of trusts and similar institutions. He features the Rockefeller and Ford families, and their eponymous foundations, as exemplars of success, and he repeatedly references the Stanford family's role in California's private higher education system. The author presents education and health as viable areas in which philanthropy can continue to thrive, and he prods today's newly wealthy, like the founders of eBay, Google and Facebook, to follow the examples of their predecessors.
A mostly intriguing analysis of how “to understand philanthropy is to understand something about the American psyche and its fidelity to promoting enterprise and opportunity.”