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The Problem of Doing Good: Irving Kristol’s Philanthropy

Irving Kristol

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“It is possible to do good. It really is possible to do good. Doing good isn’t even hard. It’s just doing a lot of good that is very hard. If your aims are modest, you can accomplish an awful lot. When your aims become elevated beyond a reasonable level, you not only don’t accomplish much, but can cause a great deal of damage.”

These words, spoken by the late Irving Kristol to the annual meeting of the Council on Foundations in 1980, shaped his own giving as well. His generosity’s “modest aims” are embodied in several generations of young editors and writers who flourished under his personal instruction at the Public Interest, an influential journal of public affairs. At the same time, however, he arguably succeeded in the “very hard” task of doing “a lot of good.” For few individuals have influenced the flow of so many dollars to so many scholars, projects, and institutions, with such a profound impact on the course of American public policy.

Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal is pleased to release this collection of reminiscences, two essays by Irving Kristol, and the event transcript of a December 15, 2009 panel discussion of the full range of Kristol’s philanthropy. Panelists included JAMES PIERESON of the William E. Simon Foundation, Indiana University’s LESLIE LENKOWSKY, RACHEL WILDAVSKY of the Tikvah Fund, and philanthropist ROGER HERTOG. The Bradley Center’s own WILLIAM SCHAMBRA moderated the discussion.

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To request further information on this publication or the Bradley Center, please contact Krista Shaffer at (202) 974-2424 or via email.

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