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Generosity and Freedom Go Together | Opinion

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Still another possibility is that places where civil society is already β€œthick,” where healthy families and other private institutions help their residents build character and find meaning, citizens tend to be both more economically productive and more resistant to expansive government.

It’s an interesting social-science puzzle. But for my colleagues and I at the John William Pope Foundation, it requires no ultimate solution. For us, it’s enough to know that freedom, human development, compassion, and other important values are associated with each other. They form a virtuous circle. And over the past 35 years, the Pope Foundation has donated more than $200 million to nonprofits found at every point on that circle, from humanitarian relief and civic vitality to think tanks and educational institutions.

Our giving reflects the philosophy of our co-founder, retail pioneer John Pope. β€œSelf-reliance, self-confidence, and integrity are the keys to success,” he said. β€œEndurance is also critical, and the responsibility for success lies on the shoulders of the individual.” Our virtuous-circle approach to philanthropy also reflects the wisdom of America’s Founders, whose fierce defense of freedom came not just from classical learning and Enlightenment principles but also from practical experience.

As George Washington put it, β€œthe preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” But neither Washington nor his colleagues believed liberty was an all-encompassing good. They recognized β€” as have prudent conservators of America’s classical-liberal revolution ever since β€” that it will always prove fleeting unless it’s bundled with the complementary good of virtue.


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