Study Group: Human Rights, Ethics and Philanthropy


Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Given great global and domestic need, the moral imperative to help others is pressing and falls on the state, civil society, enterprises and individuals.   In recent years philanthropy – the “love of humanity” – has received widespread attention.  Warren Buffet, Bill and Melinda Gates, George Soros, Ted Turner and Oprah Winfrey have given incredible sums of money to help people both globally and domestically.   In addition, members of the middle class often give generously both of their time, in the form of service, and financially.  This study group explores the ethical issues that arise in the context of philanthropy and  charity  Some of the questions to be considered are:  Who should give?  Is everyone morally obligated to give to others?  Rich and poor?  If so, on what moral foundation does this obligation rest?  Are billionaires obligated to give more than the middle class? If so, how much more?  Ought donors to receive a tax deduction when they give to charity, even when that reduces government revenue for other worthy causes?  What are the obligations of corporations to give, and does that conflict with their obligations to investors? We will also consider who the recipients of charity and service ought to be?  Are some charitable purposes morally more compelling and deserving than others? Is there a human rights responsibility to give? Is it better to give to global poverty or to the local symphony, and on the basis of what moral principles should we make these decisions?  Our learning objectives focus on deepening our understanding of these questions, and the possible answers to them.