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William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Posts Tagged ‘Legal History’

The Development of Charity: Ancient Jewish Framework and Jurisprudence

Posted by William Byrnes on February 6, 2014


This > article < by Professor William Byrnes describes the ancient legal practices, codified in Biblical law and later rabbinical commentary, to protect the needy.

The ancient Hebrews were the first civilization to establish a charitable framework for the caretaking of the populace. The Hebrews developed a complex and comprehensive system of charity to protect the needy and vulnerable. These anti-poverty measures – including regulation of agriculture, loans, working conditions, and customs for sharing at feasts – were a significant development in the jurisprudence of charity.

The first half begins with a brief history of ancient civilization, providing context for the development of charity by exploring the living conditions of the poor.  The second half concludes with a searching analysis of the rabbinic jurisprudence that established the jurisprudence of charity.

This ancient jurisprudence is the root of the American modern philanthropic idea of charitable giving exemplified by modern equivalent provisions in the United States Tax Code.

However, the author normatively concludes that American law has in recent times deviated from these practices to the detriment of modern charitable jurisprudence. A return to the wisdom of ancient jurisprudence will improve the effectiveness of modern charity and philanthropy.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 41 (link is http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2304517)

Keywords: charity, charitable tax deduction, charitable tax exemption, history of charity, Jewish history, Jewish law, Israel

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Ancient Roman Munificence: The Development of the Practice and Law of Charity

Posted by William Byrnes on January 22, 2014


This > article < by Professor William Byrnes traces Roman charity from its incipient meager beginnings during Rome’s infancy to the mature legal formula it assumed after intersecting with the Roman emperors and Christianity. During this evolution, charity went from being a haphazard and often accidental private event, to a broad undertaking of public, religious, and legal commitment. Charitable giving within ancient Rome was quite extensive and longstanding, with some obvious differences from the modern definition and practice of the activity. 

The main differences can be broken into four key aspects. First, as regards the republican period, Roman charity was invariably given with either political or ego-driven motives, connected to ambitions for friendship, political power or lasting reputation. Second, charity was almost never earmarked for the most needy. Third, Roman largesse was not religiously derived, but rather drawn from personal, or civic impetus. Last, Roman charity tended to avoid any set doctrine, but was hit and miss in application. It was not till the imperium’s grain dole, or cura annonae, and the support of select Italian children, or alimenta were established in the later Empire that the approach became more or less fixed in some basic areas. It was also in the later Empire that Christianity made an enormous impact, helping motivate Constantine – who made Christianity the state religion – and Justinian to develop legal doctrines of charity.This study of Roman charitable activities will concern itself with several streams of enquiry, one side being the historical, societal, and religious, versus the legal. From another angle, it will follow the pagan versus Christian developments. The first part is a reckoning of Roman largesse in its many expressions, with explanations of what appeared to motivate Roman benefactors. This will be buttressed by a description of the Roman view of society and how charity fit within it. The second part will deal with the specific legal expressions of euegertism (or ‘private munificence for public benefit’ ) that typify and reveal the particular genius that Romans had for casting their activities in a legal framework. This is important because Rome is the starting point of much of charity as we understand the term, both legally and institutionally in the modern world. So studying Roman giving brings into highlight and contrast the beginnings of Charity itself – arguably one of the most important developments of the civilized world, and the linchpin of the Liberal ethos.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 68 (link is http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2314731

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