Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ellison to Harvard: Drop Dead

News spread quickly of Larry Ellison's decision to not give Harvard a $115 million gift. If Mr. Ellison is interested, he could really put that money to good use. New college graduates emerge from the hallowed halls of academia every year with enormous loan burdens. What would it mean to those folks, or their parents to have a ten-thousand dollar gift to pay some of those loans. Mr. Ellison's un-pledged gift to Harvard would be $10,000 worth of help for 11,500 people. Now that might not seem like many people, but that's not the point.

The point is, small donations that mean more to individuals are unnoticed compared to massive donations, to behemoth institutions. Harvard's endowment is something like $26 billion (that's with a b). It's not chump change, but the profs at Harvard aint gonna go hungry because Mr. Ellison changed his mind.

But a ten-thousand dollar gift either to get one's education started, or to reward a student who graduates with a 3.0 GPA or who has made an appearance on the dean's list each and every semester, would reward excellence, encourage more diligent work and mean something to the recipient. In addition, the person who has earned this gift, no matter how comfortably well off they are as an individual would feel a tremendous pinch if the gift were revoked. Unlike Harvard.

This speaks to the liberal ethos. Rather than taking the time to individually help someone through personal efforts that actually reach people, liberals prefer that our money be taxed, given to the government so that they can divvy the money up best. We both want the same thing, for people can get the help that they need when they need it. But what means more to an individual, a personal gift that comes from a caring individual, or a government subsidy? And which of these is going to encourage a person to use the assistance to make sure they never need it again? Or work hard enough so that they can, inspired by the generosity shown to them, pass along that generosity to someone else? Isn't that really what community is about?

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