Martin Morse Wooster

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Martin Morse Wooster, a spring 1981 graduate of the conservative National Journalism Center, is a prolific writer spanning his interests from science fiction writing to philanthropy and education policy. [1]

Wooster's career has included stints as the Washington editor of Harper's, as well as editorial roles with conservative publications, Reason, and American Enterprise as well as a columnist for the Washington Times, a special correspondent for Network News Service and as Washington investigator for Robin Moore.

Wooster's views on philanthropy

Wooster has been a regular contributor to Capital Research Center (CRC) publications Alternatives in Philanthropy, Foundation Watch and Philanthropy, Culture and Society. He has been a visiting fellow to CRC as well.

Within conservative circles, Wooster is perhaps best known for his advocacy against what he deems to be the 'liberal' funding activities of foundations.

In his writings - including his book, The Great Philanthropists & the Problem of 'Donor Intent', the later monograph, Return to Charity, and articles contributed to the Capital Research Center's Foundation Watch Wooster claims some of the largest foundations were created by "men who championed individual liberty and free market capitalism, created foundations that support the expansion of the welfare state".

Wooster singles out the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Macarthur Foundation as foundations that "continue to fund causes their donors would have opposed".

In one instance Wooster rails against the Ford Foundation claiming that it "continues to be a champion of the multicultural left". The evidence? "It has awarded $1 million to the Columbia Journalism School for programs to teach budding reporters how to produce 'excellent coverage on race and ethnicity'". [2]

In Wooster's traditionalist analysis, succeeding generations of the founder families have promoted funding of projects that weren't envisaged or consistent with the founder's values or wishes. To counter this trend, he argues, those establishing foundations should aim to spend out the funds while they are alive. For existing foundations established by conservative businessmen, Wooster wants them to honor the 'donor intent' and return to the fold in funding conservative causes.

Wooster, an enthusiastic backer of small government and low taxes, is viewed as contributing a vital intellectual challenge to foundations view as funding 'liberal' projects. As such, Wooster contributes an intellectual underpinning for one strand in the conservative campaign to 'defund the left'.

In a review of Return to Charity? for the Philanthropy Roundtable, the senior program officer at the JM Foundation, Carl Helstrom praised Wooster's contribution to the conservative cause. "Return to Charity? reminds us of the power of intellect. … Advocates of private philanthropy and the free enterprise system of which they are an integral part have now spent close to a century in the wilderness. By recovering the capital of their intellectual forbearers, they may just have the opportunity to turn the world right-side up again in the next century," he wrote. [3]

In the preface to By Their Bootstraps, Wooster extols the virtues of a dozen anti-poverty campaigners and philanthropists between 1850 and 1910, an era he views as displaying the best traditions of philanthropy. "The consensus of poverty fighters and philanthropists in about 1890 would be this: everyone should give; no one should give indiscriminately; government aid hurts more than it helps. It would be the next generation--who were born between 1860 and 1870, and who began to write and work at the turn of the century, who would argue that charity could not cure poverty and that only professional social workers administering government doles should aid the poor," Wooster wrote. [4]

The dozen he profiled, Wooster approvingly saw as having in common that "individual private action could alleviate social problems without significant government oversight or funding".

While Wooster is critical of non-profit groups from a conservative perspective, he distances himself from some conservatives who stake out even more extreme positions. Reviewing a book by John Hawks - For a Good Cause? - in the Washington Times, Wooster took Hawks to task for suggesting that the tax-exemption should be removed for all non-profits. While conceding there are examples of non-profits that don't warrant the concession or who gain a benefit in providing commercial services, Wooster rejects the defends the tax exemption. "Hawks offers no evidence any benefits would result from raising taxes on non-profits instead of reducing taxes on their profit-seeking competitors. History suggests that closing tax 'loopholes' does not result in lower taxes, but simply gives the government more money to spend," he wrote.

Wooster on homelessness and tobacco control

Wooster has expressed his conservative views on other topics too. In an opinion column in USA Today in 1992, Wooster combined his opposition to government spending with his support for local private philanthropy to argue against government programs to counter homelessness. "Aid to the homeless should be local and private. We should all be compassionate to those less fortunate than ourselves, but the best form of aid is voluntary efforts to help people in one's own neighborhood. Such local aid will do more to uplift the homeless than higher taxes, new bureaucracies and more regulations," he wrote.

Wooster, as most conservative writers do, have criticised anti-smoking campaigns. In 2000, during a stint as 'visiting fellow' with the Capital Research Center, Wooster reviewed the 'Truth Campaign' - a youth anti-smoking advertising initiative - funded by the American Legacy Foundation (ALF). The ALF was established with funds from the settlement agreement between state governments and the tobacco industry.

After a lengthy review of the trials and tribulations of the advertising campaign, Wooster echoes the view of the tobacco industry claiming that 'it cannot be assumed that the connection between advertising and teenage tobacco use is strong". Citing a book, Fear of Persuasion by American Enterprise Institute 'resident scholar' John Calfee, Wooster argues that "at best, Calfree explains, advertising can persuade teens to switch brands, but not to start smoking". [5]

Calfee's endorsement of the tobacco industry argument leads Wooster to doubt the value of the campaign altogether. "So if tobacco advertising doesn't persuade teens to smoke, we can hardly conclude that anti-smoking campaigns persuade smokers to give up the habit," he wrote. Based on this alone he doubts that the ALF will effectively reduce teenage tobacco use. "Far more likely, the foundation's ultimate legacy will be a massive transfer of wealth from tobacco consumers and the retail market to well-to-do foundation officials and advertising executives," he wrote.

Books by Wooster

External links

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