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Philanthropy and Capitalism

Winners Take All by Amand Giridharadas takes the spotlight this week. The author succeeds in questioning our current crop of "robber barons" on why should they get to decide how to respond to major public policy issues facing our country rather than our elected officials on every governmental level. These modern day robber barons include Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Bill Clinton.  The author demonstrates that the successful capitalists have it both ways - advocating for fewer taxes, resulting in immense profits, and then embracing their version of social change through philanthropy. Talk about inequality makes these philanthropists nervous; it's best to talk about enlarging opportunity.

These philanthropists do not discuss the concentration of wealth in a handful of families. "Much of the charity and social innovation and give-one-get-one marketing around us may not be reform measures so much as forms of conservative self-defense - measures that protect elites from more menacing change... Elites, Angel Gurria writes, have found myriad ways to 'change things on the surface so that in practice nothing changes at all.' The people with the most to lose from genuine social change have placed themselves in charge of social change, often with the passive assent of those most in need of it"(p. 9).

"What is at stake is whether the reform of our common life is led by governments elected by and accountable to the people, or rather by wealthy elites claiming to know our best interests" (p.10). Remember when Bill Clinton said, "The era of big government is over." He was supposed to be a Democrat. This loss of faith in government had huge implications. For the Democrats it was a big loss because as Jacob Hacher (political scientist) said, "our vision of a good society is one in which a lot of valuable public goods and benefits have their foundations in government action" (p. 239). The more a large part of the Democratic Party made peace with the private sector and the idea of market supremacy,  the further away we have gotten from any kind of accountability. "Businesspersons calling themselves "leaders" and naming themselves solvers of the most intractable social problems represent a worrisome way of erasing their role in causing them" (p.262). 


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