From the Editors / Philanthropy and Historical Research

History of Philanthropy at NYU’s Philanthropy & the Law Annual Conference

Yesterday and today, NYU School of Law’s National Center on Philanthropy and the Law is holding its annual conference, this year on the topic of “Elasticity of the Boundaries: What Is (and Isn’t) Charitable.” HistPhil‘s own Stanley N. Katz delivered an opening paper on the history of those boundaries, “Should We Kill the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg? Do We Need a Functional Definition of Charity in the United States?”

“In this country,” Katz notes, “the institution of the philanthropic foundation came into existence without any explicit public policy determination of what it was or what it could and should do.” And “since there never has been any functional definition of the status of philanthropy as an institution, philanthropy has been and will continue to be strongly resistant to functional ‘reform.’” In the paper, Katz traces the roots, and spells out the consequences, of philanthropy’s definitional indeterminacy and resistance to reform. All that, plus he offers his recollections of the surprising way he was inducted into the study of the history of foundations, nearly four decades ago. The whole paper can be read here: Stanley N. Katz, Elasticity of the Boundaries, Oct. 2015 NYU Philanthropy & the Law Conference Paper

-Benjamin Soskis, co-editor of HistPhil

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