Theodore M. Lechterman

Postdoctoral Researcher in Political Theory & Applied Ethics

Curriculum Vitae

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Visiting Researcher, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, 2019-present

Postdoctoral Fellow, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, 2018-2019

Centre for Advanced Studies Justitia Amplificata

Interdisciplinary Ethics Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University, 2016–18

McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society / Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS)


Ph.D. Princeton University, Department of Politics, June 2016

Dissertation: “Donors’ Democracy: Private Philanthropy and Political Morality”

Committee: Charles Beitz, Melissa Lane, Philip Pettit

M.A. Princeton University, Department of Politics, May 2013

Exam fields: Political Theory, Comparative Politics, Ethics (Department of Philosophy)

A.B. Harvard University, Department of Government, June 2008


The Effective Altruist’s Political Problem.” Polity, forthcoming.

“‘That the Earth Belongs in Usufruct to the Living’: Intergenerational Philanthropy and the Problem of Dead-Hand Control.” In Giving in Time. Edited by Ray Madoff and Ben Soskis. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, forthcoming.

“Review of Paul Woodruff (ed.), The Ethics of Giving: Philosophers’ Perspectives on Philanthropy,” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, forthcoming.

“Political Theory and the Nonprofit Sector” (with Rob Reich). In The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook. 3rd edn. Edited by Walter Powell and Patricia Bromley. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2020.

Being Good in a World of Uncertainty: A Reply to Larry Temkin.” Journal of Practical Ethics 7, no 1 (2019): 33-39.

 “A Review of Laura Valentini, Justice in a Globalized World: A Normative Framework.” Raisons Politiques 51 (August 2013): 167-176.


Donors’ Democracy: Private Philanthropy and Political Morality (book manuscript).

Abstract: The practice of philanthropy, which voluntarily releases private property for public purposes, represents in many ways the best angels of our nature. But this practice’s noteworthy virtues often blind us to the fact that philanthropy also represents the exercise of private power. Donors Democracy argues that this private power threatens the value of democracy, and the risk is grave. The ability to commit private wealth for public ends rivals the authority of communities to determine their own affairs. And, in societies characterized by wide disparities in wealth, philanthropy combines with background inequality to make public decisions overwhelmingly sensitive to the preferences of the rich. Allowing private wealth to control social outcomes collides with core commitments of a democratic society, a society in which persons are supposed to determine their common affairs together, on equal terms.

But why exactly is democracy valuable? How should these values be weighed against the liberty of donors and the many social benefits that philanthropy promises? Donors’ Democracy explores these questions by examining various aspects of the practice of philanthropy: state support for private giving, the use of donations for political speech, the temporal duration of donor intent, the responsibility for providing public goods, the justification for corporate philanthropy, and the practical ethics of giving. These studies build to a surprising conclusion: democracy cannot survive without philanthropy—but making philanthropy safe for democracy also requires radical changes to law and practice. In the process, the book illustrates how engagement with empirical phenomena challenges leading perspectives in contemporary political theory.

Of Sovereignty and Saints: When Is the Private Provision of Public Goods Illegitimate?” Working paper.

“Justice and Humanity in Access to Medicine: MSF’s Rejection of Free Vaccines.” Working paper.

“Democratic Decay and Renewal Beyond the State.” Background paper commissioned by the Redefining Pursuit of the Common Good initiative (Sciences Po, Stanford University, LSE, et al.).

“Digital Technology’s Democratic Deficits.” Working paper.


American Political Science Review

Ethical Perspectives

Res Publica

Journal of Moral Philosophy

Journal of Political Philosophy

Journal of Politics


Postgraduate Travel Fund Grant, Society for Applied Philosophy, June 2016, July 2018

McWilliams Best Graduate Student Paper in Political Theory Award, Northeastern Political Science Association, April 2016

Teaching Transcript Certificate, McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, Princeton University, Spring 2016

Laurance S. Rockefeller Graduate Prize Fellowship, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, 2014–2015

Political Philosophy Summer Travel and Research Fund grants, University Center of Human Values, Princeton University, Summer 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015

Merit Prize, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, Fall 2010

Eric Firth Prize, Department of Government, Harvard University, Spring 2008


“Political Theory and the Nonprofit Sector,” Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) annual conference, San Diego, CA, Nov. 21–23, 2019 (scheduled)

“The Democratic Bases of Milton Friedman’s Corporate Misanthropy,” presented at:

—   Political Philosophy Research Colloquium, Technical University of Munich, July 8, 2019

—   10th Braga Meeting on Ethics and Political Philosophy, University of Minho (Portugal), June 13, 2019

“Digital Technology’s Democratic Deficits,” New Adventures in Democratic Theory conference, Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, July 5, 2019

“By Whose Hands? Democratic Authority and Responsibility for Social Progress,” Law & Philosophy Group, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, June 17, 2019

“What Can Political Philosophy Teach Us about Responsible Innovation?” Brightlands Institute for Smart Services, Maastricht University, Heerlen, Netherlands, June 5, 2019

“Famine, Affluence, and Democracy? The Politics of Effective Altruism,” Center for Critical Democracy Studies, American University of Paris, Feb. 25, 2019

Donors’ Democracy book manuscript workshop (with comments by Nan Keohane, Emilee Chapman, Leif Wenar, Debra Satz, and Minh Ly), Stanford University, June 15, 2018

“Of Sovereignty and Saints: When Is the Private Provision of Public Goods Illegitimate?” presented at:

—   Practical Philosophy Colloquium, Free University Berlin, Apr. 15, 2019

—   Political Theory Colloquium, Goethe University Frankfurt, Nov. 20, 2018

—   American Political Science Association annual meeting, Boston, MA, Aug. 31, 2018

—   International Society for Third-Sector Research biennial conference, University of Amsterdam, July 13, 2018

—   Midwest Political Science Association annual conference, Chicago, IL, Apr. 8, 2018

—   Cornell-Stanford Conference on Public Goods and Rising Inequality, Stanford University, Nov. 2, 2017

“Justice and Humanity in Access to Medicine: MSF’s Rejection of Free Vaccines,” Research Workshop on Humanitarian NGOs and Pharmaceutical Donations, Stanford PACS / Center for Ethics in Society, May 10, 2017

“Is the Social Responsibility of Business to Increase Profits?” Pimms and Papers Club, San Francisco, CA, Feb. 26, 2017                       

 “‘That the Earth Belongs in Usufruct to the Living’: Perpetual Philanthropy and the Problem of Perpetual Power,” presented at:

—   Stanford Political Theory Workshop, Stanford University, Stanford, California, Oct. 21, 2016

—   Seminar in Nonprofit and Philanthropic Studies, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Oct. 11, 2016                        

—   Giving in Time: Scholars’ Conference, Boston College Law School, Sep. 23, 2016

—   International Society for Third-Sector Research annual conference, Ersta Skondal University College, Stockholm, Sweden, June 30, 2016                                                                                                         

“The Effective Altruist’s Dilemma,” presented at:

—   Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) annual conference, Grand Rapids, MI, Nov. 16–18, 2017

—   American Political Science Association annual meeting, Philadelphia, PA, Sep. 2, 2016   

—   Conference on “The New Philanthropy: Effective Altruism and Beyond,” Yale Global Justice Program / Academics Stand Against Poverty, Yale University, May 7, 2016

“Donations and Democracy,” presented at:

—   Princeton-LSE Workshop on Democratic Theory and Practice, Princeton University, May 4, 2016 

—   Northeastern Political Science Association annual meeting, Philadelphia, PA, Nov. 13, 2015

—   Harvard Graduate Conference in Political Theory, Government Department, Harvard University, Oct. 23, 2015

—   Western Political Science Association annual meeting, Las Vegas, NV, Apr. 4, 2015

 “Charity’s Injustice,” Why Charity conference, Center for Applied Philosophy, Ethics, and Politics, University of Brighton, July 7, 2014



—   “The Ethics of #DeleteFacebook,” Blog of the APA, Dec. 4, 2018.

—   “One Big Problem with How Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos are Spending a Small Share of Their Fortune,” The Conversation, Sep. 19, 2018. Republished by Salon.

—   “An Ethical Guide to Responsible Giving,” The Conversation, Nov. 28, 2017. Republished by Chicago Tribune, among others.

—   “Why Harvey Weinstein Can’t Redeem Himself through Charity Alone,” The Conversation, Oct. 16, 2017.

—   “What Jeff Bezos Gets Wrong (and Right) with his Populist Philanthropy,” The Conversation, June 26, 2017. Republished by Salon, Business Insider, SFGate, and others.

—   “Is Populist Criticism of Philanthropy Justified?HistPhil, May 11, 2017.


—  Larsen, Dag Eivind Undheim, “Kunstdonorer i hardt vær,” Klassekampen (Norway), Aug. 17, 2019.

—   Frank, Dirk, “Philanthropie und Macht,” UniReport der Goethe-Universität, July 11, 2019, p. 16.

—   Sun, Rebecca, “Hollywood's #MeToo Dilemma: When Alleged Predators Also Give Generously to Charity,” Hollywood Reporter, July 11, 2019.

—   Varagur, Krithika, “By the Time a Natural Disaster Happens It’s Too Late to Help,” The Outline, Feb. 4, 2019.


Principal Instructor, The Ethics and Politics of Effective Altruism, Stanford University, Spring 2018

Assistant-in-Instruction, Practical Ethics, Prof. Peter Singer, Princeton University, Fall 2015

Assistant-in-Instruction, Global Justice, Prof. Charles Beitz, Princeton University, Spring 2014

Assistant-in-Instruction, Ethics and Public Policy, Prof. Stephen Macedo, Princeton University, Fall 2013


English (native), French (B2), Spanish (B1), German (A2), Latin (read)


Program Assistant, Social Science Research Council, Brooklyn, New York, 2009–2010

Communications Associate, Corporate Accountability International, Boston, Mass., 2008–2009


“Access to Knowledge” (uncredited). In The Measure of America 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience, edited by Kristen Lewis and Sarah Burd-Sharps, 110–51. New York: Social Science Research Council & New York University Press, 2010.

Burd-Sharps, Sarah, Patrick Guyer, Ted Lechterman, and Kristen Lewis. “Proposal for the Development of a ‘Tots Index’ Using the Human Development Conceptual Framework.” In Global Child Poverty and Well-Being, edited by Alberto Minujin and Shailen Nandy, 155–78. Bristol: Policy Press, 2012.

Burd-Sharps, Sarah, Patrick Guyer, Ted Lechterman, and Kristen Lewis. “The American Human Development Project: Results from Mississippi and Louisiana.” In Community Quality-of-Life Indicators: Best Cases V, edited by M. Joseph Sirgy, Rhonda Phillips, and Don R. Rahtz, vol. 3: 113–36. New York: Springer, 2011.

Burd-Sharps, Sarah, Kristen Lewis, Patrick Guyer, and Ted Lechterman. “Twenty Years of Human Development in Six Affluent Countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.” United Nations Development Programme Human Development Reports, Human Development Research Paper 2010/27. October 2010.

References available upon request.

Last revised: August 2019

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