For thousands of years do-gooders have unintentionally instigated famine and war. Europe and England’s Crusades were only one example. Leaders that attempted to do good in the name of religion, or any other ideal, often caused more harm than good. The United States of America was a fresh start built upon an ideal that was dependent on individual responsibility.
To promote responsibility is the motto and reason for the Harry Singer Foundation. To remind the world that freedom cannot exist without personal responsibility is our goal. Unfortunately, 2008 showed the world that—only too well. Laws are restrictions on freedom and since Americans continue to prove that men are not angels, our laws continue to proliferate and we end up with a government where a few people decide how to direct everybody’s effort and spend other people’s money. Thankfully, America is more than a country—it is an idea that can be embraced by any individual in the world. However, that individual will only attain the promised freedom by also embracing personal responsibility.
The founders of the Harry Singer Foundation view philanthropy as an integral part of the thinking of the founders of United States of America. Embedded in those founding documents was the desire for independence, freedom from tyranny and the opportunity to achieve whatever individual hard work and determination could produce. The role of government was minimal as it was expected to be balanced by philanthropy. Philanthropy is the natural impulse of people sharing hardships and hardships are the byproduct of independence, creativity and determination. This is stated in the following quotation from The Theory of the Moral Sentiments, the 1759 book that made Adam Smith famous:
“A sacred and religious regard not to hurt or disturb in any respect the happiness of our neighbour, even in those cases where no law can properly protect him, constitutes the character of the perfectly innocent and just man; a character which, when carried to a certain delicacy of attention, is always highly respectable and even venerable for its own sake, and can scarce ever fail to be accompanied with many other virtues, with great feeling for other people, with great humanity and great benevolence.”
Philanthropy is not an obligation, a responsibility nor a “we’re-all-in-this-together” bromide. It is the natural outpouring of support that flows from proud, free, independent human beings. It is empathy between responsible people.
It is also an essential part of the American ideal. Only when private sector philanthropy takes its place as a co-equal with government can the size of government be contained. Government, a consumer, not a producer, now takes money directly from the producers and redistributes it instead of allowing those who produce the pleasure of doing it themselves. Government usurped philanthropy’s role by taking on social programs and creating previously non-existent rights.
The small groups of English that first settled in New England had struggled to achieve the highest ideals of communism; struggled and failed. One hundred and fifty years later courageous and determined men penned the Declaration of Independence which nurtured another ideal. They were influenced by the words published in 1776 of a Scotsman, Adam Smith:
...every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776
As John Adams, the second President of the United States reminded us: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
All of our programs and the programs of all the organizations that make up America’s independent sector are part of the Philanthropy Project. Some links are provided to help you find responsibly run organizations and causes.
Guidestar - analysis of philanthropic projects and nonprofit tax returns
Independent Sector - research and accountability reports
Idealist - people, organizations, groups, jobs, volunteer opportunities, events, and more
Open Directory - provides categorized links to philanthropic projects
Atlas Economic Research Foundation - promotes free market projects
Building Blocks for Youth - seeks to protect minority youth in the justice system