Corporate Philanthropy

Liberals in the news media and elsewhere frequently demand that big corporations donate money to charities they, the liberals, consider worthy. Here in Seattle the local newspaper has joined the SEIU and other leftist groups in criticizing for not donating corporate money to charity.

It’s interesting that liberals are always demanding that somebody spend somebody else’s money. They consider Government programs superior to private charities because the government takes taxes by force and spends it on things the taxpayers might not want to spend it on. And within the world of private charities, liberals think that big corporations, rather than individuals, should do the donating.

Somehow it’s seen as more virtuous when the executives of a company spend their stockholders’ money, rather than their own. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos gives millions of dollars of his own money to charities, but liberals won’t be happy until he starts using his power as an executive to allocate some of his stockholders’ money to politically correct causes.

Sam Walton had to put up with the same silly criticism while he was alive. He was widely criticized by journalists and other liberals for not spending Walmart money on charity, and the fact that he made huge charitable contributions out of his own personal money didn’t buy him any relief from the critics.

There was a time in America when no one would even have suggested that a corporation should spend its resources on charities. The purpose of a corporation was clearly understood at one time. The point of any company, large or small, is to sell a product or service and make profits for the person or people who own the company. The owners (stockholders, in the case of a publically traded company) can then use the money they earn for any purpose they choose, including charitable donations.

If anyone had suggested to Andrew Carnegie during the late nineteenth century that he should use his control of Carnegie Steel to divert some of the company’s resources to charity, he would have laughed. He earned money  from his ownership of a large block of shares, and by the time he died he had given virtually all of his money to charity, but he did that as an individual. The money he gave was his money, so he had a right to give it all away. 

There is no real moral justification for corporate executives giving away their stockholders’ money to third party, yet liberals in the press make it sound like a crime not to do so.

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