Turgot on "Foundations"

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Turgot on Problems and Solutions Regarding “Foundations”

Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot was a perfect example of the “enlightened Administrator” who wished to reform the government, not overthrow it, and was even employed by King Louis XIV as “Controller General”. His ideas in the article, On Foundations, while radical, and critical of the Old Regime, mainly focus on the ideas of local government, taxation, humanism, and citizenship. In the article, Turgot criticizes the Old Regime practice of employing “foundations” or corporate charities, as a main source of financial aid to the community and proposes alternatives to the practice that focus on individual responsibility and volunteerism. According to Turgot, foundations are private charities that are often created and continued for the wrong reasons. He believes that most of the time, it is a founder’s (whether it be a man, church, or corporation) vanity that leads to creating a foundation, rather that truly caring about what society needs or would benefit the most from. Turgot states that founders are drawn to the idea of the prestige of creating a new charity or are interested in the “glamour” of supporting a new cause or project. Similarly, he believes that even if the main reason for creating the foundation was not based upon the originator's vanity, the charities are attached to certain ideal, such as Christianity, and are partly interested in peddling and promoting the beliefs or wishes of the benefactor as part of the trade for financial support. This creates a potential dilemma for the recipient, who is reliant on the charity, to acquiesce to certain rules or beliefs that the founder promotes. In Turgot’s opinion, whatever the foundation, it is originally created to fulfill a particular “purpose that the founder had in view.” Another problem with the practice of foundations, says Turgot, is that they are often detrimental to society. Because foundations are basically “free subsistence” that is available...
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