Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

Shouldering the burden of our neighbours: how exemptions in US tax law affect global and domestic health philanthropy

Meyer, J. Sam (2021) Shouldering the burden of our neighbours: how exemptions in US tax law affect global and domestic health philanthropy. Journal of Health Policy and Economics, 1 (1). ISSN 2732-4729

[img] Text (Meyer__Exemptions-US-tax-law--published) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (300kB)


Changes in healthcare have historically been driven by an equilibrium between two key institutional actors: the government and the private sector. This symbiotic relationship has offered advantages to both sides, as private foundations supplemented the resources and attention given to areas of public concern that were beyond the government’s reach, and the government reciprocally exempted such charitable giving from taxes, and afforded them the freedom to donate where they see fit. However, as the influence of private foundations only grows, their shift from a focus on domestic issues to global health may inevitably shift this equilibrium away from government benefit. Can upward trends in global health outcomes explain the downward trends in domestic ones, and if so, are tax exemptions on charitable donations responsible for the steep decline in US healthcare? In this paper, I will trace the tax exemptions in charitable giving that span from their roots in the autocratic rulers of 15th Century Europe, through their evolution to the democratic governments of today. I will analyze the public health effects of expanding tax-deductible status to organizations engaged in international rather than domestic activities. These tax exemptions are enabled by clause 501(c)(3), a law enforced by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As case studies, I will analyze the Ford Family and Bill Gates, two of today's key actors in global health, who divested from the corporations they founded through their charitable foundations. Despite a glaring decline in US health outcomes, both foundations continue to invest in projects outside the US. In light of current calls for reform, quintessential questions of biopolitics emerge, namely, should one prioritize human life differently within their borders than beyond them? And, should these priorities be different for government versus private, non-state actors?

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 J. Sam Meyer
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
JEL classification: K - Law and Economics > K3 - Other Substantive Areas of Law > K34 - Tax Law
I - Health, Education, and Welfare > I1 - Health > I18 - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2023 14:45
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 04:13

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics