I really dislike the phrase "giving back." So does Thomas Sowell:
“Giving back” is a similarly mindless mantra.
donated money, books, and blood for people I have never seen and to
whom I owe nothing. Nor is that unusual among Americans, who do more of
this than anyone else.
But we are not “giving back” anything to those people because we never took anything from them in the first place.
If we are giving back to society at large, in exchange for all that
society has made possible for us, then that is a very different
Giving back in that sense means acknowledging an
obligation to those who went before us and for the institutions and
values that enable us to prosper today. But there is very little of
this spirit of gratitude and loyalty in many of those who urge us to
The first part of the essay is also excellent, about the knowledge necessary to make sure that doing something for others actually makes the world a better place. Read the whole thing.