Sunday, January 31, 2016

A new charter for philanthropists

This is an op ed from the Ford Foundation president.  He details the history of modern philanthropy as a product of the Gilded Age, a way for dirty fortunes to quell the social unrest caused by inequality.  In this mold, the magnitude of philanthropy will always be a pittance compared to the magnitude of the inequality that breeds gargantuan fortunes.

But the writer proposes a new use, a new direction for philanthropy, based not on merely salving the most egregious wounds of inequality in order to allow it to continue comfortably, but rather on destroying the very bases of that inequality and injustice.  This is a noble proposition, and I believe it is the only entirely coherent goal for those who wish to improve the world's state.  But it would totally undermine the status quo economic system that produces philanthropists.  I don't see this as a bad thing--if wealth were more equally distributed, we wouldn't need billionaires to donate large sums to help the wretched of the earth, because there would be neither billionaires nor wretched.  But I don't think the billionaires would stand by quietly to become like the rest of us.  Ergo, I don't see their money financing foundations whose aim is to do away with the billionaire's excessive wealth.

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