Philanthropy Vs. Unproductive Charity. The Case of Baron Maurice De Hirsch

Documento de Trabajo nro. 264

29 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2007

Date Written: May 2004


In Argentina today it has become essential for the State to provide assistance to a large portion of the population; nevertheless, this social work lacks purpose unless it is used to encourage those who are assisted to fend for themselves. Otherwise, the beneficiaries would be condemned to virtual indigence, as they would be indirectly excluded from productive society. This concept of philanthropy as opposed to charity is not new; and it is interesting to note that more than one century ago, in Argentina, a singularly successful philanthropic undertaking was carried out that was imbued with this ideology. In 1891 Baron Maurice de Hirsch founded the Jewish Colonization Association, which was to become one of the greatest philanthropic undertakings of its time, through which a gigantic experiment in social welfare was carried out, based on the organized immigration of thousands of people from the Russian Empire to Argentina, with the aim of setting up agricultural colonies. Immigrants were to be given the opportunity to own their land, although this was not a gift, as they were required to pay for it, just as they were required to repay all the loans in kind received during their transfer through to their first harvests, as well as the corresponding interest. This paper represents a first step in the study of this enterprise. In it, we will center our attention on the views on philanthropy held by Baron de Hirsch, illustrating them by reference to the various projects carried out on the basis of that ideology.

Keywords: Baron Maurice de Hirsch, Jewish Colonization Association, philanthropy

JEL Classification: I38, N96

Suggested Citation

Zablotsky, Edgardo, Philanthropy Vs. Unproductive Charity. The Case of Baron Maurice De Hirsch (May 2004). Documento de Trabajo nro. 264, Available at SSRN: or

Edgardo Zablotsky (Contact Author)

University of CEMA ( email )

1054 Buenos Aires

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