Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Is It Better for Business to `Give' or to `Empower'?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Is It Better for Business to `Give' or to `Empower'?

Article excerpt

What could be more admirable than the corporate charity summed up by the phrase, "giving something back to the community"?

Oh sure, a person could argue - Milton Friedman, for one - that all a corporation can give to charity is someone else's money, that the dollars belong to the stockholders, who ought to give it away themselves.

And I suppose that a lot of corporate charity recalls the imperial munificence of the count and countess stopping the carriage to toss coins to the bedazzled peasants. But, even so, who hasn't benefited from the generosity of corporate America? It would take a cynic to ask, "Who has benefited most from that generosity?" And a critic to conjecture that the answer is, "corporate executives." But no critics here. We all know that no one builds a statue of a critic. No, they build a statue of the executive who presents the check to build the building that will house the statue. But even the noncritic must acknowledge that there are levels of generosity. Consider this list of the eight grades of charity, written in the 12th century by Maimonides: 1. To give reluctantly. 2. To give cheerfully, but not adequately. 3. To give cheerfully and adequately, but only after being asked. 4. To give cheerfully, adequately and of free will, but to do it in such a way as to make the recipient feel lesser. 5. To let the recipient know who the donor is, but not the reverse. 6. To know who is receiving the charity but to remain anonymous. 7. To have neither donor nor recipient aware of the other's identity. 8. To dispense with charity altogether, by enabling fellow humans to have the wherewithal to earn their own living. Reading the first category reminded me of JFK being asked how he had become a war hero. He replied, "Involuntarily. They sank my boat." I wonder how many corporate executives are involuntary heroes, compelled by spouses or guilt or compromise? …

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