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January 16, 2013

Opinion: Book on 'Good Rich' Misses Key Points on Philanthropy

Book reviews in The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg offer criticism of Robert Dalzell Jr.'s The Good Rich and What They Cost Us, a study of philanthropy by the wealthy from colonial times to the present day.

Journal critic Amity Shlaes says that Mr. Dalzell's assessment of why rich Americans give, and the public benefit or harm arising from their philanthropic choices, ignores the good done by their economic activity. "What matters about the rich, if we are considering the public good, isn't their charity but their investments ... and the jobs and activity they create," Mr. Shlaes writes.

While praising the book for adding to our historical understanding of American philanthropy, Bloomberg's Daniel Akst raises the same issue and says Mr. Dalzell does not address questions of tax and economic policy that "flow naturally from any discussion of the costs and benefits of philanthropy."