Toward a Political Theory of Philanthropy
The practice of philanthropy and charity is as old as humanity. People have been giving away their money, property, and time to others for millennia. What’s novel about the contemporary practice is the availability of tax incentives to give money away. The charitable contributions deduction in the United States is less than one hundred years old, created by the U.S. Congress in 1917 shortly after the institution of a system of federal income taxation in 1913. Contemporary practice, in which philanthropy is structured by a regulatory framework of incentives, is not the norm but the historical anomaly. Previously, the state protected the liberty of people to make donations of money and property but did not provide incentives for doing so. A natural question arises: why do we have such incentives and what is their justification in a liberal democracy?