Too much or too little?

Japan’s civil society, in terms the professionalization of its non-profit sector, is far smaller than what we have in the U.S. Oodles of neighborhood organizations exist, yet they do not have the structure to influence social opinion and perspectives on policies like their U.S. counterparts. A number of reasons have been noted – from government tax regulations to political structures to cultural differences. However, its hard to determine what is the exact effect of these organizations.

On the flip side, the U.S. government hasn’t provided for certain social welfare benefits that other countries do, but has made regulations ‘easier’ to establish charitable and philanthropic organizations. However, in an article I read today, there is comment that U.S. civil society has grown too large, or too large without proper oversight and accountability. The endowments of universities and private foundations are so large–and some extend into perpetuity–that it is difficult to understand how all of the money will eventually be used.

Is this growth in U.S. civil society just a passing fad? Or will its growth and existance encourage change in other countries? If it is to stay, then who are the beneficiaries? What have we learned from mistakes in past philanthropy? What organizations and ideas will thrive under this system? Which will suffer? Nothing specific, but just a lot to consider.

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