From Publishers Weekly
As president of Connecticut College in the 1990s, Gaudiani saw the school's endowment quintuple, no doubt bolstering her enthusiasm for philanthropy and inspiring this foray into writing about public policy. Declaring "no people on earth are as generous with their money as Americans are," Gaudiani posits "citizen generosity" as not just an alternative to government spending or corporate investment, but an integral fulfillment of the nation's "democratic imperative" of upward mobility. She mostly chooses her historical examples well, as in sections on Chicago's vibrant (and lucrative) museum culture and the origins of the March of Dimes, but does stumble occasionally: as evidence of our generosity, an early chapter observes that 89% of Americans made charitable donations in 2001-but fails to mention that September 11 might have made the year's giving patterns atypical. Her optimism also leads to a debatable argument that the happiness the founding fathers wanted us to pursue lay in contributing to others' success and that revived attention to various religious championings of generosity could inspire a philanthropic revolution. Gaudiani makes much of the idea that we need charity because we can't rely on government to fix our problems, especially since we hate paying taxes, and conservatives and libertarians will undoubtedly cite this book to support increased tax cuts "freeing up" money for donations. Some will agree, some will not, but what can anyone really say against a book that suggests we all give more to charity?
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In a way, former Connecticut College president Gaudiani has an axe to grind. Her thesis here is that generosity, as one of the most widely shared U.S. values (on average, we give 2 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, compared to the U.K.'s statistic--our closest competitor--of 0.7 percent), is fast receding. She builds her case carefully, pointing to the tremendous positive impact American philanthropy has had on human, physical, and intellectual capital, from the GI Bill and Sears Roebuck-founder Julius Rosenwald's construction of Chicago's famed Museum of Science and Industry to the formation of such nonprofits as MADD and Environmental Defense. To continue those kinds of contributions, she contends, demands eight different solutions, including making meaningful partnerships, plans that grow giving, more home ownership for low- and lower-middle-income citizens, community centers, among others. It is, indeed, an intelligent and well-reasoned argument designed to promote the greater good. And, on paper at least, it works. Barbara JacobsCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved