Twenty-second Century Philanthropy
Many philanthropic foundations are created with relatively modest time horizons. These are the foundations that have spent down, that are in the process of spending down, or that have declared they will spend down at some point in the not-too-distant future.
How does philanthropy that aspires to benefit future generations as well as the present stack up against philanthropy that benefits only the present generation?
Should benefactors concentrate on the present and let the future take care of itself, or should they value the long view?
It's a thorny question. Spend-down v. perpetuity. The present v. the future and the present.
Those would appear to be the two choices.
But no. I recently learned of a third category of philanthropic entity—one that is designed to benefit future generations exclusively, the present be damned.
From the July 1, 1929, issue of Time magazine:
Last fortnight Attorney Will H. Latta, of Indianapolis, was killed when a train struck his automobile. Last week Attorney Latta's will left public bequests of more than $160,000,000. Yet no rich man was Attorney Latta. His total estate came only to some $170,000.
Explanation of the discrepancy lay in the fact that the legacies, bound up for the present in a $50,000 trust fund, cannot be collected until the year 2129, when they will go to various Indianapolis art, musical and educational institutions. By that time the laws of compound interest will, unless higher laws intervene, have operated to create the $160,000,000 figure.
Having skipped the present, as well as the near and relatively distant future, the far-seeing Latta will, in another 120 years, be a major force on the Indiana philanthropy scene.
Unless the $50,000 trust was socked away, as I suspect it was, in an uninsured bank that failed in the Crash that came along not four months after Latta's death.
Oh well. The best-laid plans and all that.
Still, it's fun to think of that money sitting in some bank in Indianapolis, slowly increasing through the miracle of compound interest, and waiting, waiting, waiting to be liberated to at last begin to do its good work.