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Philanthropy, Justice and Law


Matthew Harding

It is sometimes said that philanthropy and justice are in tension with each other. In this article, I explore several settings in which this tension might be observed: (a) philanthropy, because it lacks coordination, might generate distributive outcomes that seem undesirable from a justice standpoint; (b) philanthropy might entail discrimination that offends norms of equality grounded in justice; (c) philanthropy might enable the rich to enjoy a disproportionate share of political power; and (d) philanthropy might express relational inequality between citizens that offends justice irrespective of distributive outcomes. I aim to show that, in each of these settings, philanthropy might frustrate the attainment of justice notwithstanding its propensity to generate public benefit. However, I also emphasise that justice problems are problems for philanthropy for as long as we inhabit a non-ideal world in which the state fails to discharge its responsibilities in justice.

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