Monday, November 24, 2008

The Forgotten Charity

Amity Shlaes recalls the last great act of banker, industrialist, and art collector Andrew Mellon in The Forgotten Man:
By giving largely, generously, completely, and entirely, he would demonstrate that the private man could be as good a servant to the public as the government official was...Mellon's gift would show the value of leaving art--or capital--to accumulate and compound in the shadows, untaxed. The National Gallery would be an object lesson that the high taxers could not forget.
One of the finest collections of Western art in the world, and the main building which houses it, was originally the gift of a "robber baron" who gave so selfishly that it doesn't even bear his name. And so, alongside the monuments to presidents and memorials to wars, among the lawmakers and tourists, in the shadow of the Capitol building, rests a silent dedication to low taxes.

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