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What’s the different between a lobbyist and a philanthropist?

Funny man Jerry Lewis died in Las Vegas earlier this week, aged 91. The obits have been flowing and many have pointed out his involvement with charity groups. He wasn’t just a performer, he was a philanthropist. Mr Lewis had a long relationship with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), hosting an annual telethon from 1966-2010 and raising upwards of $1 billion for the charity group. The work of Jerry Lewis highlights the not-so-subtle differences between charities and lobbyists. A charity involves giving voluntary assistance to those who need it, while a lobby group seeks to influence government decision making. The latter has a number of rules and regulations attached to it.

Mr Lewis was a philanthropist until 2011, when he asked for taxpayer funding for muscular dystrophy research. By taking this request to a senate subcommittee, the line between charity and lobbyist was crossed. All of a sudden Mr Lewis became a lobbyist and the respect was gone. You can’t respect a lobbyist — they just want to steal money.

This is an occurrence of growing regularity, where the libertarian value of individual choice is now challenged by the appeal of majority rules. It’s also leading to a lack of philanthropy in Australia.

Why charities have more integrity than lobbyists

Charity and government make for uncomfortable bedfellows. Charity ties well with the libertarian view of independence while government is well known for complicating everything it gets involved with. Through lobbying, a certain level of control is being relinquished (another value that doesn’t sit well with a libertarian).

Expecting taxpayers to help fund research is theft. Asking if they would like to contribute is charity. Another instance of the ‘fraudulent’ use of the word philanthropist is where business leaders spend shareholders money on high profit, feel-good causes whilst that business leader wallows in warmth by describing themselves as a philanthropist.

My suggestion — look deeply whenever you see that word philanthropist.




  • Hey Ron, Thanks!
    Government destroys real charity and our desire to help fellow humans, because people start to think, “That’s not my problem, the government will fix it”. And that’s the beginning of a cold and uncaring society.

  • Cannot agree with you Ron. Calling requests to Government to provide moneys for charities theft and fraudulent is outrageously over the top. If a charity needs money for its research its purpose is served whether the money is donated by individuals or Government ( provided the donations from Government come with no strings attached)’.


    • Bob: Do you think forced charity raises any important ethical issues? What if a taxpayer prefers to donate to a different cause, maybe one they know more about, or prefers to invest in a business that creates jobs and provides valuable services?

  • You are absolutely correct Ron,
    There is no difference between, pleading for tax payers money, for any charity, and then doing the same thing asking politicians to provide housing or health services or education programmes.
    Which ever way you view it, the principle is exactly the same, asking politicians to divert money (which is not theirs,) from the public purse to a speciific cause.
    The end result sooner or later, is increased demand for govt. funds, with the entire nation dependent on the mood of the polies, and money drifting to where the polies believe they will get electoral support.
    Geoff McNeil

  • Yep, all taxes are theft. Much listening to the fantastic youtube and Podcasts from Stefan Molyneux has convinced me of this. He is excellent. And thanks Ron. Keep pushing,

  • Jerry Kids money was I believe used by a Jason N£$£¥th. I’ve heard that the Ferrell House kids we just adopted and raped repeatedly and not even fed.

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