A Philanthropic Society: China’s Future

中国发展有效性网络

中文 English

At first I didn’t dare to seriously consider using the title that you see above you. But after thinking it over, nothing better came to mind. Of course I can’t tell exactly what China’s future will look like, but at least I can try my best to envision it. A friend from South Africa once said that Japan was Asia’s Germany and China was Asia’s United States. I found this comment enlightening. Whenever people think of the United States, they think of it as the most developed economy. But few of them know that the United States is the most developed society from a philanthropic perspective as well.

Wealth and charity are related and yet they are in contradiction: so how can the United States combine the two so perfectly? Recently an article written by Xu Yongguang on market-driven philanthropy made me think that it is necessary for us to talk about charity from the angle of society’s future development.

China has been gaining wealth at a rapid pace. But the attitude that having money enables you to consume at will is harmful to social harmony. Rich people passing on their wealth to their offspring and enlarging the social gap is even more harmful. Philanthropy, a further contract for social harmony in addition to taxation, is no doubt the best way for wealth to return to society.

I have cited some examples of charity from the United States in my previous works, since the US is the most developed country in this area. I am new to the idea of philanthropy (I have had contact with it for a long time, but I have seldom thought about it deeply). Many of my views may be immature, and sometimes may seem inconsistent. What bothers me most is the relationship between gaining and donating wealth.

Many people around me are not rich, but they live a fairly decent life. They all seem to have an attitude of “it’s not easy to earn money, so why should we donate it?” The United States provides us with an example of maximizing wealth and popularizing charities at the same time. Some people say that in the US the rich donate to avoid taxes, but many American scholars disagree with this, because it doesn’t explain why some people choose to donate all of their possessions.

In my view Chinese people’s wealth is growing and the number of people becoming rich is increasing. Though donations are increasing, I can’t predict whether they will reach the level of 2% of annual GDP (the American level). Indeed, judging from the present culture of donations, I think this would be unlikely.

Of course donations don’t have to reach a specific amount. However in a really big country like China, philanthropy can’t depend solely on the government. As national wealth keeps growing, philanthropy should play a bigger role, and this calls for more resources.

When I was looking at the development of charity in the US, I found that it developed for certain historical reasons. The English pilgrims and Quakers arriving in the US in the 17th and 18th centuries were influenced by egalitarianism. They established an egalitarian land system on the new continent, gave support to those who needed help, and built public infrastructure using private properties. This might be the historical origin of the development of philanthropy in the country.

This is obviously all quite different from China’s agrarian culture and historical traditions. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t have a modern philanthropic society. As such a large country, with growing wealth, it would be dangerous for China not to develop into a welfare society. No matter how analysts predict the trends of social development to go, gradually developing into a modern society of social welfare in which altruism and egoism are balanced and self-assistance and mutual aid are combined should be the future of Chinese society. So, what should the features of a modern philanthropic society be?

▼ The Spirit of Public Volunteering and the Culture of Donations

Modern philanthropic society is mainly based on donating and volunteering. The spirit of volunteering is about more than just being a volunteer, and it includes maintaining a basic consensus towards the social order, for instance spontaneously obeying the traffic rules.

When this spirit is absent, there will be an increase in the government pressure towards maintaining the social order, which will increase the costs of social management and at the same time cause new conflicts. We can often see that during the morning rush hour, there are people helping to keep order at busy road crossings. Yet still there are pedestrians running red lights despite all persuasions, and open conflicts with those attempting to keep the order may occur.

Another example is the frequent occurrence of food safety incidents. We tend to blame these on lack of monitoring. But if monitoring is needed in every single place, how big of a labor force will that require? Durkheim says that modern society’s legislation should only be complementary – and that’s what these examples show.

I think these problems are caused by our lack of a spirit of charity and volunteering. Also, a culture of volunteering includes a willingness to sacrifice one’s own interests and wealth for the benefit of others. In developed societies, where the spirit of volunteering is well developed, there are no associated police or urban management officers. Simply put, this is because people there are more socially aware. What does that mean? I think the spirit of volunteering is the core of social awareness. Waiting for a red traffic light could lead to being late for work. In a sense it is a kind of self-sacrifice, one that leads to the maintenance of social order.

Of course, this spirit of volunteering needs a condition for its nurturing, which is equality–those who have power shouldn’t use it to trample on the social order. The spirit of volunteering directly involves the cultural issue of donations. In a modern philanthropic society, donations shouldn’t be made just by several rich people, but rather charity should come from the masses. Of course I admit that there is a relationship between wealth and donating. A poor country cannot become a philanthropic society. However in China, a society developing at an increasing pace both in terms of national wealth and personal gain, we have reasons to hold certain expectations for our social development.

Many of us hold the concept that “I am not rich enough to donate”, and believe that donations are a matter for the rich. Rich westerners are often astounded at the wealth of Chinese when they see how some of them consume in foreign countries. These same people are probably the ones who would never donate more than 100 Yuan in a year.

Some people may say that the advanced development of charity in the US owes its credit to the large amount of donations made by the rich. But in fact, most of the donations come from ordinary people. In the beginning of the last century, workers in the US donated 3.7% of their average income annually. And that’s not to mention the donations made by the rich. Public donations come from all social levels in the US, and have become a solid foundation for a stable and prosperous development.

The general culture of public donations has its historical roots, and it is also related to the fact that philanthropy is closely combined with the public interest. In a certain sense, philanthropy is an expression of self-benefit. Public health, education and innovation are the largest areas of charity expenditure in the US, and they are directly related to ordinary Americans’ social benefits.

If general donations are boosting the research and production of new medicine and the development of universities, the public is willing to contribute. We can’t see charity as an altruistic act, because benefiting others is only one side of charity. Emphasis on pure “altruism” makes charity unsustainable, and charity should also be matter of egoism.

In my opinion, in order to nurture a modern philanthropic society we need to promote and practice it, and more importantly education from a young age is called for. We are lacking a common tradition of family charity, and children seldom inherit the value of charity from their family, which means that the promotion of a charitable spirit should be started in pre-school. Nurturing a citizen into developing a charitable mindset from an early age makes it possible to develop a charitable society.

▼ Positive interactions between philanthropy and economic development

Modern society is about more than just charitable donations and assistance. It is also a market economy. Though we may have some criticisms of the market economy, it seems impossible to do anything to change it. Philanthropy involves the redistribution and donation of social wealth, and the market includes the reinvestment of gained wealth, which makes the two seem contradictory.

The practice of social development in the US on the one hand proves the positive role charity can play as an invisible social bond in redistributing social wealth and easing the exploitative characteristics of capitalism. On the other hand, it also shows how charity and the market can go hand in hand in modern society. As shown above it is the spirit of charity, combining altruism and self-interest, which creates social consensus towards charity. Americans most revere the creation of wealth. They highlight the roles opportunity and technology play in creating wealth.

America’s advanced market economy is rooted in the support of charities. In the early days, many universities and colleges in the US were built by donations. Many libraries, scholarships, innovative research, and even the hiring of professors were supported by donations.

These donations made it possible for the US to posses high-quality talents, technological innovation and an advanced ideology, which happen to be the core of the market economy of the US. And inversely, the market has created a huge amount of wealth for the US. Not long ago, I was in a meeting of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and visited the innovation workshop started by Mr. Gates. This is an innovation workshop designed to solve social problems.

Mr. Gates made large investments and hired lots of scientists and technicians to solve major difficulties. They invented a fridge that doesn’t need electricity (it maintains its temperature for a week), and thus solved the problem of preserving vaccinations without electricity that is a necessity in some developing countries.

They then registered for a patent and later transferred it for free to an enterprise in Qingdao, China that could put it into the market. This is an example of charitable innovation, which also reflects the ways charity and the market are combined.

I have already mentioned the so-called “philanthropic cases”, which intend to broaden our understanding of charity. Often we deem charity to be some sort of selfless donation and assistance, which is true, but this is only one side of the story. Charity originated in Europe, but charity in Europe is now lagging behind compared to the US. The main reason is that European charity is not that closely linked to the market, while the governments play a stronger role in society.

Some people may say that the American market’s innovative force comes from enterprises. Indeed many enterprises do have their own laboratories, but innovations have to come from research. No enterprise is fully equipped with all the resources it needs in this field, so universities have always been the US economy’s real bases for innovation. Universities are also the major destination that charity resources flow to. Philanthropy redistributes wealth through donations, while it stimulates the market economy through investment in education, health care and human resources, and creates a virtuous cycle of wealth accumulation and allocation.

Economic development also calls for the input of other elements, and we tend to believe that it’s the responsibility of governments and enterprises, which is not wrong. However, as society develops in an increasingly complicated way, we need to develop timely solutions towards all sorts of problems, which are unlikely to be handled smoothly by government bureaucracies and enterprises’ short-sightedness. That is why charity can make a huge impact. Only when charity has a big influence on solving social problems can civil society be called mature, and it is possible for the government, civil society and market to build a harmonious relationship.

I am not talking about social development from the angle of the system, or talking about economic development from the point of view of the market. I am not advocating that we should copy the model of the US. American philanthropy has its own “violent” attributes and oligarchical tendencies. However, we can learn from the experience of this country’s flourishing charity and advanced market, in order to boost the co-existence of charity, government and market.

The relationship between charity and markets also involves the market mechanisms of philanthropic operations. A recent article by Xu Yongguang stirred up some discussion on this. In my mind, the marketization of charity is not about changing its essence. In contrast, it is about boosting the sustainability of charitable resources. If an enterprise has earned money in the market and, excluding the costs, invests the profit into innovative solutions for social problems, and then transfers the patent for free or for a low price so that the poor can afford to buy the resulting products, isn’t this also counted as charity?

Even if the enterprise yields high returns, in my view it is still conducting charity. The future of China’s society resides in the development of a lively charity sector. The nurturing of a robust charity depends on whether it can coexist harmoniously with the government and the market. The advanced development of philanthropy can not only boost the accumulation of wealth, but also adjust its allocation. Charity, this invisible bond of social harmony, makes up for the insufficient role the market and government play in reallocating wealth, and has become one of the most important mechanisms for an advanced society to function effectively.

李小云|公益社会:中国社会之未来?

我一向谨慎,不敢用这样的题目,但是想来想去,也没想到一个更加合适的题目。其实,我也说不清中国的未来会如何,只是,觉得至少可以设想。有个南非的朋友说,日本是亚洲的德国,中国是亚洲的美国。这话倒是对我有所启发。大家一想到美国,可能就想到美国是世界上最发达的经济体,可能很少了解美国也是世界上最发达的公益社会。

财富和公益既是相关的,又是悖论,这在美国是如何成为现实的呢?最近徐永光先生的公益市场化的文章,让我觉得有必要从未来社会的可能发展方面说说我们的公益事业。

中国的财富正在迅速累积,那种有钱就可以随意消费的思想对于社会的和谐来说是有害的;有钱人将财富传承给家人,从而维系了社会的分化,更是有害;因此,公益作为除了税收以外的社会和谐的契约,无疑是财富最终回归社会的最佳方式。

我在之前的一些短文中引用了很多美国公益的例子。

因为美国是现代公益最发达的国家。我算公益界新人(虽然很早接触,但思考很少),观点尚不成熟,有时可能不够连贯一致。最困扰我的问题是财富的积累和捐赠之间的关系。

我周围有很多人,虽不算大款,但亦非穷人,他们好像都默认“挣来的钱不容易,为什么要捐赠”这样的观点。美国则提供了一个实现财富最大化和捐赠大众化的实证案例。有人说,美国的公益捐助是富人为了避税。很多美国的学者不同意这样的观点,因为这无法解释为什么会有人把所有的财产捐赠出来的现象。

我以为,国人的财富还在增加,有钱人的数量也在增加,虽然捐赠也在增加,但是能不能达到2%的GDP(美国的水平),我没有把握;甚至,按照现在的捐赠文化,我觉得会很难。

当然,未必要一定达到多少。但是以我们这样大的国家,全靠政府显然是不行的。随着国民财富的不断积累,公益应该发挥很大的作用,而公益的作用需要资源。

我在关注美国的公益时,发现美国的公益有其特定的历史原因。17世纪和18世纪到达美国的英格兰清教徒们和贵格会教友们在财富和遗产的问题上更多地受到了平等主义思想影响。他们在新大陆创立了平等的土地制度,对需要帮助的人予以支持,利用私有财产建设公共设施。这算是美国公益文化的历史社会根源。

这些显然与我们的农耕文化和国家历史的传统不同,但这并不意味着我们不会有一个现代的公益事业。中国这样大的国家,随着财富的积累,如果不能发育成为一个公益型的社会那将是非常可怕的。我以为,不论我们的理论家如何分析中国社会的变迁,逐步形成自利和利他相平衡、自立和互助相结合的现代的公益型社会应该是中国社会未来的走向。那么,现代的公益社会有哪些特点呢?

大众的志愿精神和捐赠文化

现代公益社会主要体现在捐赠和志愿这两个方面。志愿精神不仅只是做志愿者,还包含了对于社会基本秩序的共识精神,如自觉遵守交通法规等。

一旦缺乏这种精神,就会自然导致国家维持秩序力量的增加,而这种增加一方面会增大社会管理的成本,同时也会引发新的社会冲突。我们常常看到早上上班的时候,在繁忙的路口有协助维持秩序的协管人员,但仍有一些行人不顾劝阻强行过马路,并与维持秩序的人发生冲突。

再举一例,频频发生的食品安全事故等,我们都会归咎于监管不够;但试想,真要做到个个监管,需要有多少人才可以实现。涂尔干讲,现代社会的法律是补充性的,就是这个意思。

我以为这是我们的公益志愿精神的缺乏造成的。当然,志愿文化也包含着为了他人的利益而牺牲一些自己的利益和财富服务社会的精神。凡是发达的社会,志愿精神都比较发达,也看不到协警和城管。我们会简单地说,那是因为人家素质高。什么是素质?我以为志愿精神是素质的核心。遇到红灯停下等候可能导致有些人迟到,算作是做了自我的牺牲,但是却维持了公共的秩序。

当然,这种志愿精神的发育也需要条件,那就是公平——有权力的人不能凭借权力破坏秩序。志愿精神直接涉及到捐赠的文化问题。一个现代公益型社会,绝不是只有几个富人的捐赠,而应该是大众性的。我当然承认财富积累和捐赠之间的关系。

一个贫穷的国家无法成为公益型的社会。

但是对于像我们这样一个无论国家和个人的财富都处于上升阶段的社会而言,我们有理由对我们的社会发育做出必要的预期。

我们很多人都持那种“我不富裕,无法捐赠”的概念,也同时恪守捐赠是富人的事的信念。富裕的欧美人常常惊叹中国人的有钱程度,这是因为他们在他们的国家的商店里见到中国人是如何个人消费的。但恰恰是我们这些国人,每年可能不会捐出超过100元。

有人说,美国的公益发达是因为他们的富豪多,捐得多;而实际上,美国的捐赠主要还是大众的贡献。早在上个世纪初,美国的工人每年都拿出平均收入的3.7%做捐赠。富豪的捐赠更不用说了。大众捐赠文化穿越了美国各个阶层,成为了美国社会得以稳定繁荣发展的社会基础。

美国的大众捐赠文化当然有其特殊的历史原因,但是也与美国的公益事业与大众利益相结合有很大的关系。从某种意义上讲,这种公益也是自利的表达。公共健康、教育和创新等都是美国公益支出的最大领域。这些领域与美国普通人的福利获得直接相关。

如果大众的捐赠促进了新药的研制,助推了大学的发展,大家就乐意支持。不能将公益完全看成是利他的行为,利他的行为只是公益的一个方面,完全强调“利他”将使公益不可持续,公益也是利己的事业。

我以为,发育现代的公益社会一方面是倡导和实践,更重要的是从小的教育。我们缺乏普遍的家庭的公益传统,小孩子很少从家人那里建立公益的价值,这就需要从学前开始公益精神的传播。从小开始培养公益型的公民,才有可能发育公益型的社会。

公益与经济发展的良性互动

现代社会不仅仅涉及到财富的捐赠和救助。现代社会无疑也是一个市场经济的社会。尽管我们对于市场经济有很多的批判,但这一点似乎不好改变。因为公益涉及到了财富的分配和捐赠,而市场涉及到了财富积累的再生产,所以两者看起来有些矛盾。

美国社会发展的实践一方面证明了公益作为一种隐形的社会契约在矫正财富分配和缓解资本主义的剥削性方面的积极作用,另一方面也展示了一个现代社会的公益和市场是如何共生发展的。如前所述,那种自利和利他相结合的公益精神创造了社会的公益共识。美国人最崇尚财富的创造。他们强调机会和技能在创造财富方面的作用。

美国发达的市场经济来源于公益的支持。美国早期的很多学校和大学都是捐赠建立的,很多大学的图书馆、奖学金和创新研究的支持也是来源于捐赠,甚至很多大学的讲座教授席位也是捐赠。

这些捐赠使得美国得以拥有高素质人才,技术上的创新以及领先的思想。而这些也正是美国自由市场经济的核心。反过来,美国的市场经济又为美国创造了巨大的财富。不久前,我在比尔及梅琳达•盖茨基金会开会,参观了盖茨先生创立的创新工场。这是一个为解决社会疑难问题而设立的创新工场。

盖茨先生投入巨资,雇用大量的科学家和工程师为解决众多难题进行攻关。他们发明了一个不需要电的冰箱(保温一周),从而解决了很多发展中国家农村没电,健康疫苗无法保存的问题。

他们注册了专利,然后将专利无偿转让给中国青岛的一家企业来进行市场生产。这是一个慈善创新的案例,从一个侧面反映了公益和市场是如何结合的。

我曾经提过所谓的“方案公益”的问题,主要是想把我们对于公益的理解拓宽一些。我们往往把公益看作是一种无私的奉献和施与救助;这当然没错,但这仅仅是公益的一个方面而已。公益最初起源于欧洲,但是欧洲的公益与美国相比还是落后的,主要的原因是公益与市场的结合在欧洲不像在美国那样的紧密,这当然与欧洲的国家力量相对强有很大的关系。

有人认为,美国的市场创新来源于企业。的确,很多企业都有自己的实验室,但是创新需要综合研究,任何企业都无法完全配备所需的资源,所以大学一直是美国经济的创新基地。而大学也正是美国公益资源的主要投入目标。公益通过捐赠实现了财富的再分配,通过向教育、医疗和人力资源开发的投入,活跃了美国的市场经济,形成了财富的积累和分配的良性循环。

经济发展自然需要其他要素的投入,我们也习惯于把创新看作是政府和企业的责任,这都没错。但是,随着社会日趋复杂,对很多的问题,需要有超前和及时的应对,政府的官僚和企业的短视很难做到得心应手。公益则可以发挥很大的作用。只有当公益对解决社会问题产生巨大影响力的时候,公民社会才算是成熟的,政府和公民社会以及市场之间才能建立和谐的关系。

我不是从制度角度讲社会的发展,也不是从市场角度讲经济发展。我也不主张照搬学习美国的模式。美国的公益有其“暴力”的成分,也有一些“寡头”政治的倾向。但是,我们可以借鉴美国公益繁荣和市场发达之间的经验,促进建立公益、政府和市场的共生关系。

公益与市场的关系还涉及到了公益运行市场机制问题。最近由于徐永光先生有一文引起了大家的讨论。我以为,公益的市场化并不是要改变公益的本质,相反,是在促进公益资源的可持续性。假如一个企业在市场中挣了钱,除去支付成本,把盈利再投入到解决社会问题的创新中,创新的专利无偿转让或优惠转让,生产穷人能支付起的产品,这不算是公益吗?

即便企业获得了高回报,我以为这也是公益。中国社会的未来,在于能不能发育出有生命力的公益;而发育有生命力的公益,则要看能不能和政府与市场建立起共生的关系——因为发达的公益既能促进财富的积累,又能调节财富的再分配,公益这个社会和谐的隐形契约弥补了市场和政府在财富创造和分配上的不足,成为一个发达社会有效运转的重要机制之一。

Translated by Pan Mingzhu

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