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Es ist Ihr Geschenk

Es ist Ihr Geschenk

6 Min.
March 21, 2016

Business producers in America have showered all of us with products, from those we use every day to the innovations we could not have imagined—from iPhones to electric cars—with profits plowed back through financial markets to fund ever-expanding innovation.

Yet people in business get no respect, not outside their own circles.

If you want to understand why, look no further than a recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal by Christopher Caldwell: “Donor Beware: The New Realities of Philanthropy,” March 11, 2016.


Phil Knight Nike 2 philanthropy

Caldwell’s primary target is Phil Knight, founder and long-time CEO of Nike. Knight was listed by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as the 3rd largest giver in 2013, mainly for a $500 million matching grant to Oregon Health & Science University Foundation, a spin-off of his alma mater, where he was a competitive runner.

Knight was the son of a middle class family in Portland, Oregon. After college he worked as an accountant for a stretch, then enrolled in Stanford’s MBA program, where he realized he had an entrepreneurial spirit and conceived the idea of a better running shoe. "I was very aware of shoes when I was running track," Knight says. "The American shoes were offshoots of tire companies. Shoes cost $5, and you would come back from a five-mile run with your feet bleeding.”

He found a model in Japan, a much better shoe and cheaper than what he had available as a college athlete.

nike 3 just do it phil knight philanthropy

With his college coach, Bill Bowerman, he set out to create and sell better shoes on that Japanese model. He began selling them out of his car, at track meets, until he could afford to quit his day job and start Nike. The rest is history: a hugely successful company that has won the allegiance of top athletes, saved the knees of recreational runners, and—along the way—created a branding revolution with the phrase “Just do it,” which has been the mantra not only for runners but for a wider culture embracing the entrepreneurial spirit of that slogan.


rhodes must fall protest south africa

A life of achievement, you might think—and you would be right. Knight has also contributed millions to Stanford, where he earned his MBA, to provide scholarships to young talent worldwide, on the model of Rhodes scholarships to Oxford. That is just one of the gifts that Knight has made with his wealth. Such benevolence—an investment in the future—is also to be admired. You would think.

Caldwell doesn’t think so. He begins his attack with the analogy between Knight’s gift to Stanford and Cecil Rhodes. Students in South Africa recently trashed a statue of Rhodes as an imperialist colonizer, and students at Oriel College, Oxford, have demanded that a statue of Rhodes there be removed. Caldwell cautions that the winds of political correctness will continue to blow: “Universities and donors today must be alert to the possibility that the acts of philanthropy on which they collaborate might someday be denounced by the grandchildren of those they aimed to help.”


Just a warning by a friendly observer? No. Caldwell is on the side of anti-business PC. He quotes Gustavus Myers, a socialist in the early 20th century, whose book History of the Great American Fortunes alleged that the great industrialists of the time gained their wealth through “bribery, theft, corruption, and deceit that transcend generations and industries.” Speaking in agreement, Caldwell says, “Myers insisted that the libraries endowed by Andrew Carnegie should not lead us to forget that his wealth had its source in ‘underpaid and overworked employees.’”

All of these allegations about the so-called “robber barons” have long since been refuted by business historians. Undeterred by evidence, Caldwell continues the litany of leftist accusations: monopoly, outsourcing production to low-wage 3rd-world countries (a cause célèbre about Nike a few years back), and on and on.


But the worst claim in Caldwell’s article is that philanthropic gifts by wealthy business people are too individualistic.

The $400 million in assets that Mr. Knight has dedicated to Stanford’s new scholarships will pass into a project wholly of his own choosing. Had he left the money to a family member in his will, the federal government would tap about 40% of it, or $160 million, and a state government might also take its share—which these public authorities would then invest, following priorities established in a more democratic fashion. Had Mr. Knight sold his stock, the government would get 20% of the appreciation in the form of capital-gains taxes. People differ on what the proper tax rates are for all of these things. But it is clear that, when the rich divert their assets to tax-free purposes, however laudable those purposes may be, it is other, nonrich taxpayers who must pick up the budgetary slack. When there is a trend toward inequality, you cannot expect the middle class to like that. [Emphasis added]

Excuse me? The wealth that Knight and other successful producers created and are willing to contribute in the service of their values should be distributed by society? By what right? That implies that their wealth belongs to society. This is the kind of collectivist egalitarianism that rules in Europe, where the state is assumed to be the ultimate dispenser of benefits and private giving is actively discouraged.


In short, The Wall Street Journal, the self-proclaimed chronicle of American business, published an article that:

  • Ignores the creative achievement of great entrepreneurial producers who created immense value for customers, as if the only moral dimension of their work is what they gave away: Those who create value in their work have to launder their wealth morally through charity.

  • Trivializes their gifts by subjecting them to current PC concerns by people who have no idea what it takes to create wealth.

  • Taints their achievements with standard, unfounded left-wing anti-capitalist accusations.

  • Assumes that the wealth they produced and earned really belongs to society and should be distributed by government.

Business people of all industries, at all levels from small to large: This is what you are up against. You deserve better. Your deserve honor not just for what you give away but for all you do to earn that wealth in the first place, through your initiative, your discipline, your willingness to take risks, and all the sleepless nights you spend worrying about how to make payroll.

You are the real heroes of our world. Take pride in that.

We at The Atlas Society are on your side. Get in touch, we’re eager to connect. Meanwhile, a thought from Ayn Rand, whose work is our foundation:

Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distribution—or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement. [Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, 682]

David Kelley


David Kelley

David Kelley ist der Gründer von The Atlas Society. Als professioneller Philosoph, Lehrer und Bestsellerautor ist er seit mehr als 25 Jahren ein führender Verfechter des Objektivismus.

David Kelley Ph.D
About the author:
David Kelley Ph.D

David Kelley founded The Atlas Society (TAS) in 1990 and served as Executive Director through 2016. In addition, as Chief Intellectual Officer, he was responsible for overseeing the content produced by the organization: articles, videos, talks at conferences, etc.. Retired from TAS in 2018, he remains active in TAS projects and continues to serve on the Board of Trustees.

Kelley ist ein professioneller Philosoph, Lehrer und Schriftsteller. Nachdem er 1975 an der Princeton University in Philosophie promoviert hatte, trat er in die Philosophieabteilung des Vassar College ein, wo er eine breite Palette von Kursen auf allen Ebenen unterrichtete. Er unterrichtete auch Philosophie an der Brandeis University und hielt häufig Vorträge an anderen Universitäten.

Zu Kelleys philosophischen Schriften gehören Originalwerke in den Bereichen Ethik, Erkenntnistheorie und Politik, von denen viele die objektivistischen Ideen in neuer Tiefe und in neuen Richtungen weiterentwickeln. Er ist der Autor von Die Evidenz der Sinneeiner Abhandlung zur Erkenntnistheorie; Wahrheit und Duldung im Objektivismusüber Themen in der objektivistischen Bewegung; Ungetrübter Individualismus: Die egoistische Basis des Wohlwollensund The Art of Reasoning, ein weit verbreitetes Lehrbuch für einführende Logik, das jetzt in der 5.

Kelley hat zu einer Vielzahl von politischen und kulturellen Themen Vorträge gehalten und veröffentlicht. Seine Artikel über soziale Fragen und die öffentliche Ordnung sind unter anderem in Harpers, The Sciences, Reason, Harvard Business Review, The Freeman und On Principle erschienen. In den 1980er Jahren schrieb er häufig für das Barrons Financial and Business Magazine über Themen wie Gleichberechtigung, Einwanderung, Mindestlohngesetze und Sozialversicherung.

Sein Buch A Life of One's Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State ist eine Kritik an den moralischen Prämissen des Wohlfahrtsstaates und eine Verteidigung privater Alternativen, die die Autonomie, Verantwortung und Würde des Einzelnen bewahren. Sein Auftritt in John Stossels ABC/TV-Sondersendung "Greed" im Jahr 1998 löste eine landesweite Debatte über die Ethik des Kapitalismus aus.

Er ist ein international anerkannter Experte für Objektivismus und hat zahlreiche Vorträge über Ayn Rand, ihre Ideen und ihre Werke gehalten. Er war Berater bei der Verfilmung von Atlas Shruggedund Herausgeber von Atlas Shrugged: Der Roman, die Filme, die Philosophie.


Hauptwerk (ausgewählt):

"Concepts and Natures: A Commentary on The Realist Turn (by Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas J. Den Uyl)," Reason Papers 42, no. 1, (Sommer 2021); Diese Rezension eines kürzlich erschienenen Buches enthält einen tiefen Einblick in die Ontologie und Epistemologie von Konzepten.

Die Grundlagen des Wissens. Sechs Vorlesungen über die objektivistische Erkenntnistheorie.

"Das Primat der Existenz" und "Die Erkenntnistheorie der Wahrnehmung", The Jefferson School, San Diego, Juli 1985

"Universalien und Induktion", zwei Vorträge auf GKRH-Konferenzen, Dallas und Ann Arbor, März 1989

"Skeptizismus", York University, Toronto, 1987

"Die Natur des freien Willens", zwei Vorträge am Portland Institute, Oktober 1986

"The Party of Modernity", Cato Policy Report, Mai/Juni 2003; und Navigator, November 2003; ein viel zitierter Artikel über die kulturellen Unterschiede zwischen vormodernen, modernen (aufklärerischen) und postmodernen Ansichten.

"I Don't Have To"(IOS Journal, Band 6, Nummer 1, April 1996) und "I Can and I Will"(The New Individualist, Herbst/Winter 2011); begleitende Beiträge zur Verwirklichung der Kontrolle, die wir als Individuen über unser Leben haben.

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