Monday, January 12, 2009

The power of philanthro-capitalism

Will the super-rich save the world?

There’s no doubt that the budget crunch is forcing schools and other areas of public space to become more reliant on philanthropic good will in order to survive. The SF Chronicle ( ”How Obama Can Partner With Philanthropy”) details the upside of philanthro-capitalism while dutifully omitting any mention of the now, well-known problems associated with giving unfettered power to the world’s richest men.

Taking their cue from the Pollyannaish authors of Philanthro-Capitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World, the Chronicle portrays the lack of democratic decision making, or philanthro-accountability to the community, as strengths rather than areas of concern.

In the case of the social sector, its most important asset may be its independence, not only from governments but from the snap judgments of markets or electoral politics, influenced by the 24-hour news cycle. In a world of complex problems, the social sector - philanthropy and those it supports - may be the only sector able to take risks, withstand criticism and make long-term investments in the public interest.

But these days, the so-called "social sector" isn't very social. Those who still value democratic ideals and who still favor keeping the public in public education will be forgiven for gagging on the notion of leaving decisions about what’s “in the public interest” to power philanthropists Gates, Walton and Broad.

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