"Giving" is perhaps the expression that
exemplifies social accountability and responsibility to other people
regardless of their political, social, economic, and cultural
background. The act of giving, however, is governed by varying motives,
driven by myriad factors, and shaped by different realities.
A number of dualities could be observed if giving is analyzed
through sociopolitical and political-economic lenses. First, giving to
charity could be explained by the "nature of benefits individuals
receive when they give to charity." On the one hand, "donors may focus
on the well-being of charity recipients. In this case, the benefits
from giving have a public nature." On the other hand, "donors may focus
on the enjoyment they receive from the act of giving itself--that is
the internal feeling they derive from 'doing their share' or 'giving
back to society.' In this case, the benefits from giving have a private
The duality between the public benefits view and the private
benefits view raises the political-economic issue of "crowding
out--that government grants to charities will completely crowd out
private contributions." However, "empirical studies have found only
limited crowding out, suggesting that most donors are not solely
concerned with the charities' accomplishments, regardless of the source
of contributions; instead, private motivations, such as the joy of
giving or recognition, play an important role in their giving
Second, giving could be examined using the gift paradigm and
exchange paradigm of Genevieve Vaughan.3 As we live in a commoditized
world, the exchange paradigm dominates the act of giving, relegating it
as a "profit-oriented" and "ego-oriented" activity. As critically
analyzed by Vaughan:
Exchange is self-reflecting. . . . In exchange, the
satisfaction of the need of the other is only a means of the
satisfaction of one's own need. When everyone is doing this, the
communication that occurs is altered and only succeeds in creating a
group of isolated, unbounded, independent egos, not a community.4
What Vaughan proposes is a gift paradigm that views gift-giving as need oriented and other oriented.
Giving for the World
Another interesting angle on giving is giving for world development.
According to A. B. Atkinson, "while giving for development is modest in
total amount, it is one of the few direct ways in which individuals
reveal information relevant to the properties of the social welfare
function to be applied to global redistribution." Again a duality
exists in this political-economic analysis where individual givers
could be termed as welfarist or nonwelfarist. He concludes that "the
motives for giving for development are better seen in terms of the
impact on a group of representative recipients. The concept of a
'representative' recipient for the individual donor has a parallel at
the level of the national social welfare function, suggesting how we
can derive a formulation that lies between the extremes of national
egoism and global cosmopolitanism."5
Atkinson proceeded to work on an alternative model to explain the
economics of giving for overseas development. In place of the
public-good (utility derived from the achieved results of the gift) and
warm-glow (utility derived directly from the act of giving) models, he
proposes the "identification model," in which the individual donor "is
assumed to be concerned with the impact on the living standards of the
Advocates of cosmopolitanism, however, assume a stronger stance. For
instance, the Light Omega Organization, a center for spiritual teaching
and healing in Massachusetts, in 2005 asserted that "a true 'global
community' means that there cannot be people who are so distant from us
that we are indifferent to their needs. Their needs must become our
needs, and to be of help, we must go beyond good intentions into
understanding something about the 'economics of giving' and, as a
nation, make different decisions about how much we give, to whom, and
for what reasons."7
The organization, however, recognizes the reality that "at present,
the 'economics of giving' cannot be isolated from national
self-interest, from political motives, or from a culture's wish to
maintain its own comfort, even at the expense of others."8 This
perspective exposes two critical considerations that spell out both the
certainties and uncertainties of global giving.
First, giving at the international level necessitates various
channels and mechanisms. In the case of national and international
crises due to natural disasters and social eventualities, the graphic
coverage provided by the media quickly lures the public toward giving.9
Institutional extensions and linkages of the media serve as the
concrete channels for donations. A host of local, national, and
international organizations that are private, governmental,
nongovernmental, and/or sectoral and multisectoral in nature also
participate in varying degrees.
The Internet is another channel that provides faster and easier
means of soliciting donations through electronic philanthropy sites.
Further, tax incentives provided by governments encourage charitable
giving to international relief and development organizations.10 These
instrumentalities, however, are not disinterested entities and possess
respective biases on who should give, what to give, how to give, where
and when to give, and who to give with. Some philanthropic and
nongovernmental organizations even serve as mere tax shelters as a
means for big business to avoid and/or evade income taxes.
Second, the economics of giving is further convoluted by the amount
of military expenditure that the world annually makes. In 2006, the
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated that world
military expenditures had reached $1.204 trillion in then-current U.S.
dollars.11 In plain economics, the allotment of such an amount to sound
development programs and unconditional aid that are oriented toward the
poor could simply accomplish the following:12
(a) Improve the lives of 3 billion people living on less than $2 per day13
(b) Send 110 million primary school age children to school, of which 60 percent are girls14
(c) Fund rural development to improve the lives of three out of every four people living on less than $1 per day15
(d) Provide lighting in the homes of 1.6 billion people living without electricity16
(e) Provide food for approximately 790 million people in the developing
world who are undernourished (almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia
and the Pacific17
(f) Forgive the debts of numerous countries
Mind-boggling as the data are, the rule is that the needs of a
particular country or people are not necessarily the concern of another
country or people. Still, hope is not lost, as there are thriving
events, issues, conditions, processes, and structures that could shape
giving for a global cause.
Motivations for Global Giving
The Philanthropic Initiative, a Massachusetts-based organization,
has identified seven motivations for global giving.18 The first refers
to the existence of a global community. In the past, charitable giving
has been largely confined to local and domestic issues and
organizations with which donors have personal connections or of which
they have personal knowledge. Today the media and the Internet, and the
globalization process, have changed donors' perspective of "community,"
as they now consider international communities in their humanitarian
Second, global crises, in the form of natural disasters and civil
conflicts, have triggered high levels of humanitarian assistance. The
1984 famine in Ethiopia, the 2004 tsunami in South Asia, and the
conflicts in Afghanistan and Kosovo are good examples.
Third, the issue of global inequality, where disparities in the
distribution of wealth among nations represent unacceptable levels of
inequity, constitutes for donors a "moral imperative that drives their
Fourth, the realization of a global community, that peoples and
nations without exception have become vulnerable to the world's
problems, which threaten their security, leads members to understand
that "global problems require global solutions and resources." This
motivation emanates from the acknowledgment of global threats.
Together with the recognition of a global community, the next three
motivations characterize an evolving global social capital that
revolves around global interdependence, global opportunity, and global
leverage. Global interdependence in the form of global commerce and
trade has created social imbalances producing enormous wealth in some
nations while adversely affecting a vast majority of the world's
population. More than ever, an increasing number of concerned people
perceive that globalization should be backed by a "social imperative to
Global opportunity, in turn, represents the emergence of global
social infrastructures in the form of funding and "umbrella"
intermediaries, foundations, and NGOs to support and effectively use
international resources is making global giving easier and more cost
Finally, donors from wealthy nations who seek maximum benefit from
their charitable work find in developing countries excellent
opportunities to practice their philanthropy. Their charitable
offerings, no matter how modest, can have a tremendous impact on a
small village ravished by poverty. In addition, the personal
friendships and goodwill developed with peoples and other cultures can
be very gratifying indeed. Global leverage best defines this condition.
From the aforesaid accounts, what seems to be the defining factor in
giving is the orientation that motivates people to give--the altruistic
outlook that appreciates the existence and needs of others and does not
merely seek public recognition and glorification. It is in this
juncture of analysis that the sociocultural dimension warrants
Faith in Giving
Notwithstanding the exclusivist tendencies of religions and social
philosophies, giving to and helping others critically constitute their
core values, beliefs, and practices--nonetheless in varying degrees of
activity and passivity. Confucianism considers "self-realization" as a
process of establishing oneself by helping others establish themselves
and that the ability to comprehend the existence of another person is
crucial to establishing the self. It is therefore instructive in that
individuals should be conquered by the "great self" that "goes beyond
self-centeredness. It relates to the family, the society, the state,
and beyond to the world at large. It establishes these relationships as
part of its own sensitivity and concern."19
In the Buddhist economic ethic, the act of giving is expressed through the ideas of karma, religious giving (dana), and compassion (karuna).
It is more concerned with "cultivating the proper ethical attitudes
toward wealth and giving" than with "changing the overall existing
distribution of wealth." However, the use of Maitreya by revolutionary
and other protest movements spawned "the development of a more socially
activist and transformative economic ethic focusing on ideas about
economic and political justice."20
Helping others, according to the Hindu belief, is one of the Fifteen
Laws of Life. The seventh law states: "If money helps a man to do good
to others, it is of some value; but if not, it is simply a mass of
evil, and the sooner it is got rid of, the better."21 As for the Jewish
philosophy, core value no. 6 (under the Values and Convictions of
Hashivenu) states: "Because all people are created in the image of God,
how we treat them is a reflection of our respect and love for Him.
Therefore, true piety cannot exist apart from human decency." The
concern for others further becomes explicit in the story of the Good
Samaritan, where "the issue is not WHO is our neighbor, but that we are
to BE a neighbor, rendering assistance to anyone in need."22
For the Islamic faith, the third Pillar explicitly delegates humans as mere stewards of earthly wealth. In particular, giving zakat (support for the needy) suggests:
All things belong to God, and wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The original meaning of the word zakat is both "purification" and "growth." Giving zakat
means "giving a specified percentage on certain properties to certain
classes of needy people." The percentage which is due on gold, silver,
and cash funds that have reached the amount of about 85 grams of gold
and held in possession for one lunar year is two and a half percent.
Our possessions are purified by setting aside a small portion for those
in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances
and encourages new growth.
A person may also give as much as he or she pleases as voluntary alms or charity.23
And from the perspective of the Roman Catholic Church, the most encompassing teaching is perhaps the Populorum Progessio
(The Development of Peoples).24 This encyclical from Pope Paul VI
envisions and promotes holistic human development and the
people-centeredness of development per se. Based on an international
prognosis of social problems and maladies, the encyclical states:
Everyone must lend a ready hand to this task,
particularly those who can do most by reason of their education, their
office, or their authority. They should set a good example by
contributing part of their own goods, as several of Our brother bishops
have done. . . .
It is not just a question of eliminating hunger and reducing poverty.
It is not just a question of fighting wretched conditions, though this
is an urgent and necessary task. It involves building a human community
where men can live truly human lives, free from discrimination on
account of race, religion or nationality, free from servitude to other
men or to natural forces which they cannot yet control satisfactorily.25
The encyclical further provides for development at the international level and specifies the role of better-off nations:
This duty concerns first and foremost the wealthier
nations. Their obligations stem from the human and supernatural
brotherhood of man, and present a threefold obligation: (1) mutual
solidarity--the aid that the richer nations must give to developing
nations; (2) social justice--the rectification of trade relations
between strong and weak nations; (3) universal charity--the effort to
build a more humane world community, where all can give and receive,
and where the progress of some is not bought at the expense of others.
The matter is urgent, for on it depends the future of world
civilization. . . .
The duty of promoting human solidarity also falls upon the shoulders of
nations: "It is a very important duty of the advanced nations to help
the developing nations. . . ."
Finally, "the superfluous goods of wealthier nations ought to be placed
at the disposal of poorer nations. The rule, by virtue of which in
times past those nearest us were to be helped in time of need, applies
today to all the needy throughout the world."26
Further, the teaching of the Catholic Church about the distribution
of wealth states that the goods of the earth are gifts from God and
they are intended by God for the benefit of everyone. There is a social
mortgage that guides our use of the world's goods as stewards and
trustees of creation and not as mere consumers and users.27 Peoples and
nations should therefore avoid the risk of increasing still more the
wealth of the rich and the domination of the strong while leaving the
poor in their misery and adding to the servitude of the oppressed.28
The sociopolitical and political-economic analyses of the "economics
of giving" flesh out the manifold mitigating factors of why people
give. On the one hand, these help us understand the complex nature of
giving; on the other hand, the analyses likewise reveal the challenges
and uncertainties that giving for a global cause faces. Inseparable,
however, is the sociocultural perspective, for it discloses the
metaphysical dimension that stimulates giving.
Major religions and social philosophies have their respective values
and means of promoting selflessness and world development. To advocate
global giving and universal solidarity, therefore, is to advance the
agenda of an interfaith dialogue that would harness and solidify the
efforts for global giving--a dialogue that would function as an
instrumentality to confront the uncertainties and obstacles of giving
for a global cause.
1. Ruben Hernandez-Murillo, "The Economics of Giving," in National Economic Trends (St. Louis, MO: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, October 2005). Cf. Lise Vesterlund, "Why Do People Give?" in The Nonprofit Sector, 2nd ed., ed. Richard Steinberg and Walter W. Powell (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006).
3. Genevieve Vaughan, For-Giving: A Feminist Criticism of Exchange (Austin, TX: Plain View Press and Foundation for a Compassionate Society, 1997), 14-16.
5. A. B. Atkinson, "Welfare Economics and Giving for Development," in Welfare, Development, Philosophy and Social Science: Essays for Amartya Sen's 75th Birthday, vol. 1, Welfare Economics, ed. Kaushik Basu and Ravi Kanbur (Economic and Social Research Council project grant "Giving to Development," 2007).
6. A. B. Atkinson, "The Economics of Giving for Overseas Development"
(Working Paper A08/03 Applications and Policy, Economic and Social
Research Council project grant "Giving to Development," Southampton
University: Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute,
7. Light Omega Organization, http://www.lightomega.org/NL/ 2005-01-12.html (accessed June 20, 2008).
9. E.g., Philip H. Brown and Jessica H. Minty, "Media Coverage and
Charitable Giving after the 2004 Tsunami" (William Davidson Institute
Working Paper, no. 855, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan-Ann
Arbor, December 2006).
10. David C. River and Mark O. Wilhelm, "Charitable Contribution to International Relief and Development," National Tax Journal 48, no. 2 (June 1995): 229-44.
11. Http://yearbook2007.sipri.org/chap8/ (accessed June 30, 2008).
12. The data are also provided by Anup Shah in "Poverty Facts and Stats" on the Global Issues Website at
13. Http://www.worldbank.org/html/extdr/extme/G8npoverty 2000.pdf (accessed June 30, 2008).
15. United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2007/2008 (November 27, 2007), 25.
16. Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, 44.
17. World Resources Institute, Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems (February 2001).
18. Paula Johnson, Global Giving: Making a World of Difference (Boston: Philanthropic Initiative, 2003).
19. Tu Wei-ming, "Core Values in Confucian Thought," http://
www.trinity.edu/rnadeau/FYS/Tu Wei-ming.htm (accessed June 29, 2008).
20. Gregory K. Ornatowski, "Continuity and Change in the Economic
Ethics of Buddhism--Evidence from the History of Buddhism in India,
China and Japan," Journal of Buddhist Ethics 3 (1996), http://www.buddhistethics.org/3/ornatow1.html (accessed July 1, 2008).
21. Swami Vivekananda, "15 Laws of Life: What You Need to Keep in
Mind," http://hinduism.about.com/od/vivekananda/a/ lawsoflife.htm
(accessed July 1, 2008).
22. "Values and Convictions of Hashivenu," core value no. 6, http://www.hashivenu.org/corenvalues.htm (accessed July 1, 2008).
23. "What Are the Five Pillars of Islam?" http://www.islam-guide.com/ch3-16.htm (accessed July 1, 2008).
24. Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio: Encyclical on the Development of Peoples (March 26, 1967).
25. Ibid., 32, 47.
26. Ibid., 44, 48 (cf. "Church in the World of Today," no. 86: AAS 58 (1966) 1109 [cf. TPS XI, 319], 49.
27. Cf. "Stewardship of God's Creation," in Robi A. Marshall, Health Quest Pentathlon, Lifepac Five (Chandler, AZ: Alpha Omega Publications, Inc., 2002); Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio: Encyclical on the Development of Peoples
(March 26, 1967), no. 22; United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
(USCCB), "Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the
Common Good" (June 15, 2001), 4; USCCB, "Economic Justice for All,"
Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy
(1986), no. 228; Russel A. Butkus, "The Stewardship of Creation" (Waco,
TX: The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, 2002).
28. Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio: Encyclical on the Development of Peoples (March 26, 1967), no. 33.
Lilian J. Sison is the dean of and a professor
at the Graduate School of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. She
holds a PhD in chemistry. She is also the secretary general of the
Asian Conference of Religions for Peace in the Philippines. Jaime M.
Jimenez, PhD, is associate professor of development studies, Asian
studies, and political science in the Graduate School and the Faculty
of Arts and Letters at the University of Santo Tomas.
This article was originally published in the October-December 2008 issue of Dharma World.
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