Foundations are among the oldest existing institutions. They have existed, in various forms, across many cultures throughout history, and have been experiencing a veritable renaissance over the last two decades, both in the United States and elsewhere. What are the rationales for foundations in modern societies, and what propels their growth in scale and scope in the early 21st century? Posing fundamental questions, the present essay, written in the form of theses and counter-theses, assesses various reasons for the continued existence and relevance of foundations by pulling in perspectives from the US, Britain and Germany. The questions posed assume policy relevance as the present foundation boom takes place in an era of reduced state capacity to respond to public problems, and changes in the democratic fabric of society.