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Philanthropy in Democratic SocietiesHistory, Institutions, Values$
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Rob Reich, Chiara Cordelli, and Lucy Bernholz

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226335506

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226335780.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 11 April 2021

The Free-Provider Problem: Private Provision of Public Responsibilities

The Free-Provider Problem: Private Provision of Public Responsibilities

(p.207) Eight The Free-Provider Problem: Private Provision of Public Responsibilities
Philanthropy in Democratic Societies

Eric Beerbohm

University of Chicago Press

Free riders fail to do their share. Philanthropists turn the free riding problem on its head. They do more than their share, so much so that they can displace public responsibilities. In this chapter, I attempt to explain the intuition that philanthropic giving cannot fully pick up the slack of unjust political institutions. Philanthropy can blunt injustices, but it cannot fully redress them. The reason lies in the agent-relative character of public responsibilities. They can only be satisfied by the joint action of democratic institutions. Showing the force of the free provider problem points to conditions that citizens may together place on private giving. I argue that this explanation is less clumsy than the appeal to the “warm-glow” associated with philanthropic giving, and can help explain the enduring tension between democracy and philanthropy.

Keywords:   public responsibilities, voluntary sector giving, free rider problem, democratic values, agent relative obligations, democracy, justice, distributive justice, charity, philanthropy

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