In his writings about the free market and free trade, Adam Smith was perhaps the most profound theorist of how private gain can serve the public good. But the financial crisis that unfolded in 2008 has raised serious concerns in the minds of certain analysts about Smith's classic formulation. Some have renewed a familiar narrative equating free enterprise with greed, from which the public needs to be protected by the state. Others have pointed to the origins of the financial crisis in intemperate government policies and the response to those policies of business leaders who pursued unsupportable and risky investments.
The Foundation's 2010 Funding Priority on “Private Gain and the Public Good” is intended to spark wide-ranging research and practical action related to the cultural and ethical values essential to the success of free enterprise and free societies. These would include, in particular, the values of honesty, thrift, and trust. We welcome proposals that seek to enumerate the rules of prudent, discerning, and skeptical investing and business management; that assess the benefits of new approaches to financial regulation in terms of enhanced economic productivity and prosperity; and that explore the potential of financial regulation to create moral hazard for individuals and for decision-makers in government and business. Proposals related to education and communications should focus on youth and young adults, emphasizing the ethical frameworks that entrepreneurs and managers must bring to bear to create a sustainable prosperity that can be passed on from generation to generation.
Applicants are asked to frame their proposals in response to one or more of the following Big Questions:
Budget range and term for individual projects: From $50,000 up to $250,000 and for up to two years.