Giving Thought


We discuss Rob's book 'Just Giving: Why philanthropy is failing democracy and how it can do better'

Philanthropy, democracy and inequality

27 November 2018

In episode 38 we talk to Professor Rob Reich from Stanford University about his new book, Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How it Can Do Better and about his wider work exploring the political philosophy of philanthropy.  In a wide-ranging conversation, we cover:

  • What motivated him to write the book?
  • Why has philanthropy been largely ignored as a subject of study by political philosophers and political theorists over the years?
  • Does he see his book as part of a growing trend of criticism of elite philanthropy at the moment?
  • Why does philanthropy potentially subvert democracy?
  • Is elite philanthropy a plutocratic exercise of power? And can this ever be justified?
  • Does mass market philanthropy represent a powerful means of decentralising power and choice about public goods? Or is this always undermined by the disproportionate influence of those with large amounts to give?
  • Do tax breaks for philanthropy exacerbate inequality? How could we structure them differently?
  • How should we understand the role of foundations?
  • If one of the key benefits of foundation philanthropy is innovation and 'discovery', how do we ensure this is at the heart of what they do?
  • Why are endowed structures that exist in perpetuity a particular problem?
  • What has been the response from policymakers, philanthropists and foundation leaders to his arguments? And what would ideally like them to do?


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About the Giving Thought podcast

The Giving Thought podcast is an exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society.  Since launching in May 2017, the podcast has become recognised as an insightful and influential source of philanthropic debate. 

In each episode Rhodri Davies, Director of our Giving Thought Think Tank, and guests, take a contemporary issue in philanthropy and civil society and break it down into three manageable chunks, giving an overview of the extensive work they have done on the subject.  Episodes are also available free on iTunes and Libsyn.

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Rhodri Davies

Head of Policy

Rhodri leads Giving Thought, our in-house think tank focusing on current and future issues affecting philanthropy and civil society. Rhodri has spent nearly a decade specialising in public policy around philanthropy and the work of charities, and has researched, written and presented on a wide range of topics. He has a first-class degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.   Read more about Rhodri



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