For over a century, the United States has stood as a beacon of prosperity, innovation, generosity, and opportunity, proof that big business and big dreams can flourish side by side. But, at the turn of the twenty-first century, America faces stagnant growth, industry implosions, job displacement, an ever-widening income gap, oppressive debts, low civic involvement, and insular gated communities. What did we do right for so long, and what can we do to get back on course?
In The Greater Good, Claire Gaudiani, one of the nation's leading voices for community development, focuses our attention squarely on the money trail of the American dream. It's not that Americans have been generous because we're rich, she argues; we're rich because we have been generous. Philanthropists invest in people, property, and ideas long before businesses or the government come into the picture, and they play a crucial role in sustaining the fragile balance between capitalism and democracy.
In this provocative and engaging book, Gaudiani measures the visible and invisible impact of philanthropy in America, and shows how it has:
—fostered a highly educated workforce for the service and information sectors,
—created the bulk of opportunities for poor families to gain income and participate in the economy,
—built stable, clean housing and thriving business and employment districts,
—and launched major, risky research efforts that led to the birth of the aviation, pharmaceutical, and financial analysis industries—all fields where America leads the world.
Gaudiani also shows how early donors to such initiatives as scholarship funds, prison reform, museums, and medical studies started economic and social ripple effects by infusing capital in the very areas economists associate with accelerating economic growth: human, physical, and intellectual capital. A new commitment to entrepreneurial philanthropy, she argues, can play a similar role in the years to come if Americans are savvy enough to spur cutting-edge technologies and asset-building for the poor—not through loans or tax breaks, but through gifts.
The Greater Good is a passionate, pragmatic, and, finally, optimistic manifesto for revitalizing the promise of the American economy.