|Modern Organizations of Philanthropy|
|http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/02/27 09:42 《英语学习》|
Y: Yang Rui, host of Dialogue on CCTV 9
Z: Zi Zhongyun (资中筠)2, scholar
Y: There are some very rich people who love to distribute their wealth to the society or to those who need the money for noble reasons. Sure there are many ways of giving. Setting up foundations, for example, is a common practice in America. Names such as Rockefeller, Ford and Carnegie3 are the landmarks in this area. The purpose and function of a foundation is believed to be closely linked to philanthropy and charity4. Then what are the history and ideology of philanthropy in the United States? How do we read the minds of the donors? We are now honored to have Madame Zi Zhongyun with us here and share her years of research in this area. Madame Zi Zhongyun used to be the director of the Institute for American Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. She is also the author of a newly published book called Wealth and Ways to Distribute It.
Y: Can you tell us something about your new book? What made you write this book and why did you choose such a title?
Z: The title of the book actually came to my mind later. There are so many books in the bookstores about how to collect money, how to earn money. So I decided that my book would be how to distribute wealth. But my interest in the American foundations dated way5 back, almost ten years ago. And the reason why I'm interested in these foundations, I think I started from two channels. One is from the US cultural relations, because I first paid attention to the Rockefeller Foundation for its work in China during the first half of the twentieth century. And the second perspective is from the development of the United States by the end of last century. Before this book, I collaborated with my colleagues and published a book which talks about the rise and fall of the powers in the twentieth century. My contribution to the book is the American part. I tried to study how the United States began to set on the road to power and wealth in the twentieth century. Of course, there are many elements. And I took the perspective of how it balanced development and equality, the two basic urgencies of the society. And among these main elements, the private philanthropy came to my attention. So I started to study the American foundations. The more I studied the richer contents I found. So finally it resulted in such a book.
Y: Did you meet any opposition in conducting research in this area?
Z: I worked mainly with the American documentation and in libraries. So from the beginning I did not discuss this project with my Chinese colleagues. The publication of my book has not met any obstacles.
Y: Can you tell us about "philanthropy" in the context of American values and the American tradition of giving and taking?
Z: Philanthropy itself in the root of the word in Greek is to love humanity, love mankind. So it is also in some way the same as charity. And in some way it is larger than charity. So I call it "philanthropy" rather than charity because the connotation6 is broader and more fundamental. As for the development of modern philanthropy in the United States, it has its particular conditions. Philanthropy exists everywhere in the world, and even as early as in the time of Roman Empire, and also in ancient China. But philanthropy in the form of modern foundations, it's a unique phenomenon in the United States. And I think I've discussed in this book at length7. There are material bases, because no other country in the world has witnessed such a concentration of tremendous wealth in private tax as in the United States. And on the other hand, there are certain traditions, spiritual traditions. One tradition is the religious tradition because church always carried out charity causes, though the United States is not alone in that tradition.
Y: A few minutes earlier you talked about the book a few years ago about the rise and fall of big powers. And you mentioned that America pursued equality while collecting wealth. Does it mean that equality is really an integral part of American value, that distributing wealth is an attempt to seek equality?
Z: The real situation is more complicated than your question. Of course equality is one of the basic values. Equal rights, equal opportunities are the basic beliefs of Americans. I think people have some misunderstanding about what is called liberalism. They only think of free competition, free market. But I think equality is also an integral part of liberalism, the belief that all men are born equal. They have some basic rights and they should have equal opportunities. And when you have equal opportunities, when you enjoy the same basic rights and you play by the same rules, then somebody, some people become rich and some remain poor, well, that is to do with your ability and your wisdom, etc. That's the basic belief of Americans.
Y: Do you think people would question the motivations behind the distribution of wealth? For example, some people might explain their motivation in two ways. First of all, if you don't distribute your wealth, you'll be taxed by the government anyway. So you'd better do it. Secondly, perhaps the way you accumulate wealth involves exploitation, therefore you want to clear your conscience by doing something charitable for the general public. Do you think this sort of explanation could be justified?
Z: Partly, yes. As I have said, people are very complicated. You cannot always put very simple labels on them saying that this is a good person, this is a bad person; that all capitalists are bad, all workers are good. I don't think in reality it's like this. And for one person, for instance, as an entrepreneur, when he tries to collect money, when he competes in the free market, he follows the rule of pursuing the highest profit, and he will take all means. And in this aspect, he might be relentless. But on the other hand, he has also his ideals and his basic values. When he believes that all men are born equal, especially when he is a very pious8 Christian, he would think that since I'm so lucky, I have been selected by God to be so lucky, to be capable of getting rich, then I have the responsibility to my poorer brothers in front of God. I have also the responsibility of making this world a better place to live in. And this is their dual9 belief.
Y: What does the Bible say about wealth?
Z: Well, I'm not a specialist in Bible first of all. I'm not a Christian at all. But I think they believe that - for instance, there is a very famous saying - that it's much more difficult for the rich to enter paradise than the camel to run through the needle.10 Andrew Carnegie, for instance, he believes that he who rolls in wealth dies in disgrace11. This is another version of this belief of Bible. So in this way he advocated that all the rich people should distribute their wealth before they die. Andrew Carnegie is of course one of the founders of modern philanthropy and modern foundations. And he has a whole philosophy behind this creation.
Y: When he decided to distribute his wealth to the general public, did he meet any opposition from his family members, or did he get understanding and support from his family members?
Z: Unlike Rockefeller, Carnegie had no descendants. Rockefeller has many children but Rockefeller did not meet any opposition from his children, because at the very beginning, he educated his children in this way. First of all, they have to live in a rather simple way and thrifty way. And secondly, he used to give each of his children three dollars a week for their own expense. He asked them to spend one dollar on themselves, to save one dollar for any accidental use, and to give away one dollar to those who are in need. And they are brought up this way. So I think the concept that when you are rich you should live a very luxurious life is not their value.
Y: So what's the history of philanthropy in America?
Z: I think the tradition came from Europe way back to the Elizabethan times when there was the act. They called it "Poor Law"12. Even Queen Elizabeth ordered that all rich people should donate certain amount of money to the church in their area in order to be distributed to the poor. That is written \into\ the law. And I think the first \group\ of immigrants from England to the United States already had that kind of tradition. But on the other hand, there are other things, which are of American characteristics, because when they came away from their homeland to this vast unknown land, they had nobody to turn to in difficulties. They had to turn to their own fellow immigrants.
Y: I read a review of your new book. It summed up the gist13 of your book in three points: one, Christianity, religious spirit; two, voluntarism; and three, the spirit of community.14
Z: These three elements are of course very important. But I think for the United States, philanthropy comes \into\ all aspects of social life. Whenever you feel some need, somebody would offer you certain help. That's always like this. Foundation is modern organization. It's organized after15 the modern corporations. They have the very complete system, very sound16 system. And through these years the laws of government have improved so as to encourage this kind of philanthropy, and also to supervise them so that they would not abuse the priority given them. And you talked about tax. I'd like to say something about tax. Of course the exemption17, the tax law is very important for people to give away money. But I don't think it's the only motivation of the people who donate money for philanthropy, because the foundations like Carnegie foundation, Rockefeller foundation started before the tax law was passed. I think the government had also certain suspicion as to the motivations of the rich. So they wanted to try to supervise and control them.
Y: I heard a story of George Soros18. He participated in a discussion about how to use the money he donated through the foundation named after him. And he objected to one of the suggestions put forward by a member of the management regarding the use of the money to help the needy. And then a young man stood out and said, "Mr. Soros, you are no longer in position to have any decisive say about the use of the money. Even if you didn't donate the money, you'd be taxed by the government." What do you make of this story?
Z: That was written in my book. I think that means when a part of the money was exempted from tax, you have the responsibility to the whole society, all the taxpayers; that you'll use the money according to the law. In the tax law, it is clearly defined what kind of organizations are qualified to enjoy the exemption of tax. I think the tax law is very important in encouraging or discouraging or supervising the foundations. It's not a decisive motivation for the donors. They would use the law to do the micro-adjustment. But it's rather narrow-minded to interpret the motivations of all the donors as just to evade tax.
Y: I'm very curious as to whether the beneficiaries19 of the distribution of the foundations would show gratitude or do anything in return for the grant if they should get it?
Z: I think the very essence of modern foundations is different from that of traditional charity, personal charity. There is no gratitude, because that has become their obligation. Once you set up a foundation and you registered with the government, you enjoy the status of tax exemption or what they now call the non-profit treatment. Then you are obliged to carry out the responsibilities defined by the work of the foundation. I think there is no concept of gratitude towards a person, for instance, Ford or Rockefeller or the family or any officer of the foundation. They think that that's all very natural.
Y: If any project or individual in China benefited from the western foundations such as the Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford, do you think there is some kind of ideology involved?
Z: The ideology question always exists in cultural exchanges. There are different kinds of international exchanges including, for instance, sending students abroad to study. There will always be so-called ideology influences. That's inevitable. I don't think it's a bad thing. If you can influence others, the others can also be influenced by Chinese culture. That is something mutual. The foundations only play the role of financing certain exchanges. It's not their direct role to exercise ideology influence.
Y: Do you think there are elements in Chinese traditional culture that also advocates philanthropy or charity?
Z: I think there's a long tradition of charity or to sympathize with the weak and the poor in the Chinese culture. For instance, from the very beginning, Confucius advocated that a rich person should love others, should be benevolent20. And there are also many gentlemen, good landlords in the village who used to do good things for the villagers, etc. But the question is still different from the concept of modern philanthropy embodied in these foundations, because it's still personal and family, not facing the whole society and not organized systematically. So I think traditional charity was born from agricultural society. But when you enter the industrial society, and when there are modern enterprises, the free market, etc, philanthropy should also be modernized in impersonal ways and scientifically managed. I think at the very beginning people like Carnegie or Rockefeller realized that they could not just give away on request like this. They have to spend money scientifically and do the basic good for the society.-
5. way: <口>远远地，非常。
7. at length:详尽地。
10.原句为"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter \into\ the kingdom of God."〈谚〉财主进上帝的王国比骆驼穿过针眼更难。(源自《圣经·马太福音》，指富人进不了天堂。)
12.指伊丽沙白一世制定的"The Elizabeth Poor Law"，后世称为伊丽莎白济贫法。济贫法规定的救济对象有三种：一是有劳动能力的贫民，二是无劳动能力的贫民，三是无依无靠的孤儿。济贫法也以其"惩诫性"、"恩赐性"著称于世。济贫法普遍实施之后，不但没有使有劳动能力的贫民自力更生、自食其力，反而使他们沦为永久的贫民。当然，济贫法的问世，还是有它的进步意义，它奠定了英国乃至欧美各国现代社会救助立法的基础，开创了用国家立法推动社会保障事业的先例。
13. gist: (文章的)主旨，要点。
18. George Soros:乔治·索罗斯，量子基金创始人，国际著名的"金融大鳄"，被普遍认为是1997年亚洲金融风暴的罪魁祸首。
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