Bradley Prizes Awarded
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, hosted the annual Bradley Prize award ceremony with a gala celebration at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on June 4, 2008. The 2008 Bradley Prize winners were Gary Becker, Alan Kors, Robert Woodson Sr., and Victor Davis Hanson, each of whom received a monetary award of $250,000. The Bradley Prize recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the cause of “preserving and defending the tradition of free representative government and private enterprise.”
Gary Becker is a professor of economics, sociology, and business at the University of Chicago, as well as the winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in economics and a 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is perhaps best known for his pioneering research on human capital and rational choice theory, which he has applied to studies of crime and punishment, the behavior of the family, and discrimination in the markets for labor and goods.
The second Bradley Prize winner is Alan Kors, who teaches European intellectual history at the University of Pennsylvania. His scholarship focuses on the rise and flourish of heterodox thought in 18th-century France, the Enlightenment, the history of European witchcraft beliefs, and the history of academic freedom. That latter interest led him to co-found the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit committed to ensuring civil liberties in the American academy. FIRE defends the rights of free speech, due process, and religious liberty on campuses nationwide. He received the National Humanities Medal in 2005.
Robert Woodson Sr., the third Bradley Prize winner, is the founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, a nonprofit that works to revitalize low-income areas. Woodson directs his efforts to helping revive inner cities through economic growth and homeownership. He is a leading advocate for community- and faith-based strategies to reduce crime, solidify families, and stimulate enterprise and employment. Woodson has long questioned federal anti-poverty initiatives, pointing out that they frequently reinforce dependency rather than increase self-sufficiency.
The fourth and final winner of the 2008 Bradley Prize is Victor Davis Hanson, the Anderson Fellow at the Hoover Institution, the Buske Distinguished Fellow in History at Hillsdale College, and a professor emeritus of classics at California State University, Fresno. Hanson is a historian, essayist, and lecturer, known for his expertise in military history, modern defense policy, and international politics. A recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal, Hanson has written or edited 17 books on antiquity, military history, immigration, and the ongoing war on terrorism.
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation
On May 30, 2008, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the creation of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. The Blair Foundation hopes to draw on religious faith as a way to encourage economic development and conflict resolution. Blair told the New York Times that the foundation will encourage “[a]ction to do good, action to counter extremism, because that has an impact on our security, and action to educate, because if there’s better understanding between the faiths, there’s less potential for religious difference to become a source of conflict.”
The foundation is exploring ways to encourage interfaith understanding among young people (ages 10 to 16). In addition, the foundation plans to support the Coexist Foundation in setting up Abraham House. To be located in central London, Abraham House will be an educational resource and meeting place for those interested in learning more about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
To kick off the education initiative, Blair will teach a course on faith and globalization at Yale University in the fall of 2008. The class will bring together students, scholars, and policymakers to explore how economics, politics, and faith can be harnessed in order to improve development and foster international peace. The foundation intends to make the course materials available online free of charge.
The Blair Faith Foundation has also stated its intention to work towards the fulfillment of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. It has placed particular emphasis on collaborating with other faith-based organizations to eradicate malaria from afflicted regions of the world.
“Trouble” for the Helmsley Estate
Hotelier and real estate investor Leona Helmsley passed away in August 2007, but controversy still swirls around the disposition of her estate. Before she died, Helmsley composed a two-page “mission statement” regarding the disposition of her assets, estimated between $5 billion and $8 billion. According to unnamed sources who have claimed to have seen it, the statement directs the bulk of her fortune to the care and welfare of dogs. (To her Maltese Terrier, Trouble, she originally willed $12 million, an amount that Judge Renee Roth of Manhattan’s Surrogate’s Court has since trimmed to $2 million.)
Helmsley’s instructions were not incorporated directly into her will or the terms of her trust, however, so it is uncertain whether the instructions will be operative. William Josephson, lawyer and former chief of the Charities Bureau in the New York State attorney general’s office, told the New York Times that “the ‘statement’ is an expression of her wishes that is not necessarily legally binding.” Trustees of Helmsley’s charitable trust recently hired a philanthropic advisory service to help them find a way to remain true to Helmsley’s wishes, while still expanding the broader goals of her foundation.
The trustees are concerned in part that the sheer size of the estate might overwhelm the animal-service nonprofit sector. According to the Times, a low-end estimate of Helmsley’s estate is worth nearly 10 times the amount of the combined assets of the 7,381 animal-related nonprofits in the United States. As a result, trustees will consider, among other things, whether or not the trust can expend funds on grants to veterinary schools or research on canine diseases.
The Gates Debates
In January 2008, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Bill Gates made headlines around the world by calling for a new and better form of capitalism. As an alternative, Gates proposed “creative capitalism,” wherein “governments, businesses, and nonprofits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world’s inequities.”
“Such a system,” Gates continued, “would have a twin mission: making profits and also improving lives for those who don’t fully benefit from market forces. To make the system sustainable, we need to use profit incentives whenever we can. At the same time, profits are not always possible when business tries to serve the very poor. In such cases, there needs to be another market-based incentive—and that incentive is recognition.”
Gates’ speech at Davos caused considerable debate among economists, activists, donors, and government leaders. William Easterly, for instance, is an economist at New York University whom Gates singled out for criticism. Easterly replied in the Wall Street Journal that although “Mr. Gates seems to believe that the solution is to persuade for-profit companies to meet the poor’s needs by boosting the ‘recognition’ of corporate philanthropy . . . the dossier of historical evidence to suggest this would work is as thin as Kate Moss on a diet.”
The ensuing controversy has recently been taken up in an online forum. On June 23, the website “Creative Capitalism: A Conversation” was launched. (The site can be visited at creativecapitalism.typepad.com.) The multi-authored blog explores, questions, and challenges Gates’ idea of “creative capitalism.” Contributors include (among others) Brad DeLong, Ed Glaeser, Jagdish Bhagwati, Gary Becker, Richard Posner, Lawrence Summers, Robert Reich, William Easterly, and Warren Buffett. Journalists Michael Kinsley and Conor Clarke intend to collect and edit the posts—including contributions from both hosts and visitors—which will be published as a book by Simon & Schuster in the fall.
On July 17, 2008, the Allen Institute for Brain Science unveiled the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas, the first systematic effort to construct a genome-wide map of the mouse spinal cord. Since mice and humans share 90 percent of their genes, and since mice are a long-established means for researching human diseases, the Atlas has the potential to unlock many of the medical mysteries surrounding the human spine.
“The problem is that we know very little about the genes that control different functions in the spinal cord,” says brain researcher Jane Roskams. “This atlas will help researchers advance their work in quantum leaps, perhaps helping spinal cord patients mobile enough to make leaps of their own.”
The first round of data—consisting of 2,000 genes—has been compiled and is now publicly available on the Allen Institute’s website (brain-map.org). As additional data become available, the institute intends to upload the research to the site. The project is expected to be completed by early 2009. Once finished, it will detail 20,000 genes, with data from the full length of the spinal cord as well as anatomical reference sections.
In the meantime, the Allen Institute expects hundreds of users from research universities, pharmaceutical companies, and governmental agencies to access the data. The new map is intended to be a resource for researchers worldwide, and the Allen Institute hopes to see it lead to medical advances in the treatment of Lou Gehrig’s disease, spinal muscular atrophy, spinal cord injuries, and multiple sclerosis.
The Allen Institute for Brain Science was founded with a $100 million contribution from Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen. To fund this project, the institute collaborated with public, private, and philanthropic partners, including the ALS Association, PVA Research Foundation, Wyeth Research, PEMCO Insurance, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the International Spinal Research Trust.