A special report on the scope and source of philanthropy in the U.S.

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Deep Dive — Philanthropy

The season of philanthropy

Data: Giving Tuesday; Chart: Axios Visuals

As noted in Axios' Philanthropy Deep Dive on Saturday, philanthropists are big-picture strategic thinkers who generally want to use their money to influence government. By their nature, they're generally unaccountable and undemocratic forces in society.

The big picture: Giving Tuesday, which just passed, is a countervailing force to the prevailing philanthropic winds. It serves no strategic purpose; it merely encourages ordinary citizens to give money to charity on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. (The bigger long-term trend is that household donations to charity are declining, rather than rising.)

Billionaires build new "benevolent aristocracy"

Illustration of a green crown made of folded dollar bills
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If charity is giving alms to the needy, then philanthropy is charity's more high-minded and strategic relation.

The big picture: Philanthropists don't want to give a man a fish; instead they want to take credit for building a proof-of-concept that will persuade governments around the world to invest in large-scale programs of fishing pedagogy.

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