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Should the giving styles of the rich and famous alarm us all?

In 1890, pioneer photojournalist Jacob Riis published a book, “How the Other Half Lives,” portraying the squalid lifestyles of the immigrant groups flooding into the slums of New York City. In “The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age,” writer, publisher and think-tank founder David Callahan examines a vastly different group, the ultra-wealthy, and how they are using their fortunes to try to change the world. These rich Americans are nowhere near as numerous as the people Riis profiled, nor do their donations account for more than a small share of the nearly US$375 billion Americans gave to charity in 2015. Nonetheless, Callahan sees their philanthropy as creating problems for American civic life and democracy, just as many feared the 19th-century immigration wave was doing.

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