City Journal Winter 2016

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Winter 2016
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Guy Sorman
Philanthropy by the Numbers « Back to Story

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Have any of the financial eggheads at Robin Hood heard that correlation does not mean causation?

Do these nitwits really believe that a high school diploma is the actual cause of a longer lifespan and increased annual earnings, as opposed to the character and intelligence needed to earn the diploma?

As for their "success" in getting released felons to access social services, who do they think they're fooling? How exactly is aiding criminals in accessing the dole a charity success?

"[B]ut who today has anything else to propose in order to ensure the optimal allocation of the scarce resources of philanthropy?”

Actually the Catholic Church has for 2,000 years been at the forefront of social order and care for the poor. In each of today's Church dioceses magnificent efforts are made with amazing results in multiple individual suborganizations working daily.

It is, of course, the natural human inclination, particularly in today's reality of virtually empty Churches, Christ left alone in the Blessed Sacraments, and the vain belief that science and human analysis can ultimately solve our ills, or the ills pandemic in certain human societies.

And few there are who do what Christ recommended: (a) fast and (b) pray. That's the only way such demons are vanquished. And Soros continues futilely attempting his magic.
I am all for using measurement as a tool to learn more about how well our ideas work in practice to make social change. This article might for some appear a critique of the role of measurement in philanthropy, as though philanthropy is markedly different from business.

I would argue that it's not such a critique. It's a well articulated exploration of how measurement can bring a dimension of insight we cannot get any other way, to inform our decisions so we are more likely to achieve our intended outcomes.

For Robin Hood, they have the right intentions for using measurement and are boldly pursuing those intentions, despite not having all the answers. Measurement is hard in any sector - many of our important goals do seem hard to measure meaningfully or at all - but just because it's hard doesn't mean it isn't valuable.

This article discusses some of the important considerations in improving the role that measurement takes in philanthropy (and from my experience, this equally applies in business): considering unintended consequences during the process of choosing measures, making intangible goals as sensory-rich as possible so we can at least find some way to recognise if they are happening, considering a balanced selection of goals that include financial and social and probably other dimensions too.

The question isn't whether or not measurement should be used to evaluate philanthropy but rather how can we make our approach to measurement better, so our decisions are wiser and we get more desirable social change for our investment?
Through-put for food aid in sub-Saharan Africa is five percent.

The remaining 95 percent is seized by the kleptocrats or warlords running the various countries.

Ergo, food aid is keeping them in power, not feeding the starving.

Note also, that the democratic societies somehow don't suffer from widespread famines.
Can we monetize the satisfaction we citizens receive from charitable giving? If the poor will always be with us, then who is charity supposed to benefit - only the Taker or both Taker and Giver? Every monotheistic religion and many of the world’s other major religions stress the need for the individual, the religious believer to actively practice charity for those in need – frequently and without complaint. So if giving is good not only for the Taker but also for the Giver, can we quantify what is the most satisfactory form of giving, the second best form, etc.? And can we make this determination based primarily on how it affects the Giver?

Or does giving bring only objective rewards such as a stable and well-ordered society? We realize many of the Takers can offer only their own helplessness as the reason we must support them – for most of their long lives our society will acknowledge they are individually helpless and recognizing they have nothing to offer society we will feed, clothe and educate them and their children as a means to preserve social order.

At present, the City of Detroit is milking 73 various government programs for free money and some of that money must reach those who are truly in need. Detroit once led the world in automobile production but today this city’s primary industry is begging for charity. Yet, we as a society believe we can’t turn our backs on Detroit, both for reasons of compassion and for fear a complete municipal breakdown will threaten our own social stability – although exactly how such stability will be threatened we’re extremely reluctant to analyze.

50 years ago, the benefit to the Giver was conceived of as giving a fellow American a leg up, a temporary helping hand in the belief the Taker would improve themselves beyond the need for life long charity, thereby improving our nation as a whole. Today, we’ve abandoned such a naïve belief and come to recognize charity as an obligation which will change nothing but must be performed with no illusions about saving the chronically helpless.

If there is a widening gap between the Rich and the Poor, then it is the self-acknowledged duty of the so-called Rich to do something for the Poor. Therefore, should we maintain that those who succeed in life must shoulder a responsibility for those who will never succeed – without complaint and without hope for positive change? And if such a cynical realization is now the social norm, perhaps it’s also the reason we fret endlessly about the most effective form of charity for the Taker but refuse to quantify the rewards due the Giver.
This piece echoed when this came up:

“Fundamental Rules of Corporate Life”:

(1) You never go around your boss.

(2) You tell your boss what he wants to hear, even when your boss claims that he wants dissenting views.

(3) If your boss wants something dropped, you drop it.

(4) You are sensitive to your boss’s wishes so that you anticipate what he wants; you don’t force him, in other words, to act as a boss.

(5) Your job is not to report something that your boss does not want reported, but rather to cover it up. You do your job and you keep your mouth shut.
- - - - - - - - - - -

The Japanese had to defeat these managerial perversions to re-engineer their industries after WW II. That's when they introduced Deming's work and the PDCA system.

"Every improvement embarrasses someone." And what they needed was lots and lots of improvement -- coming from a culture where samurai had legal right to execute anyone who failed to show deference, or just did a job differently from other people.
It's better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.
I'm very surprised that there is no discussion here of Robin Hood's controversial practice of using political influence and money to seize control of tax expenditure decisions that should be made by elected officials, not by non-elected, non-appointed private nonprofits.

Crony philanthropy, if you will.

In each of the programs listed above, philanthropists throw some money into the pot, but it is the taxpayers who end up picking up the lion's share of the tab for the programs these private citizens desire.

So spare me the encomiums about humility, etc.: Robin Hood deserves a great deal of scrutiny for projects they design and direct with the expectation that taxpayers -- who are systematically excluded from the decision-making process -- will foot most of the bill.

That's abuse of power and anti-democratic to the core. It's also business as usual for Soros, who demonstrates systematic contempt for our right to determine through elected bodies what we will do with our federal, state, and local taxes.

Taxpayers are actually the largest, albeit involuntary, donors to these schemes (though oddly they don't get invited to the galas and fundraisers where these mundanely un-humble faux-lanthropists celebrate each other). I also question the claims of fundraising efficiency. At the very least, the fact that these people are forcing the rest of us to subsidize and implement their activism should not be brushed under the table.

The "partnerships" bragged about here actually represent deliberate hijacking of the public purse. And the programs Robin Hood and Soros fund are large-scale social engineering undergirded by a leftist politics also not mentioned here.

In reality, the Soros-funded, Christopher Stone-directed campaign that will likely have the deepest effect on poor people in New York City is OSI's highly successful, scorched-earth campaign against stop-and-frisk (combined with other anti-incarceration measures, including a campaign to oppose life-without-parole sentencing and another to end sentence enhancement for repeat offenders). Because of this activism, expect the murder rate to start rising again, regardless of how many green charter schools with retractible roofs the aptly-named Robin Hood Foundation builds by pilfering from the public trough.

When you strip away all the chatter about quantification or anti-quantification, the Robin Hood Foundation is the rich stealing from the working and middle classes to shower largesse on the non-productive underclass.
Recall "Freakonomics" ???

Instead of losing something by using data, you get new insights. Classically:

-- P for Plan
-- D for Do it small
-- C for Check your results and a goto to P until it's solid; then
-- A for Act on a large scale


Japanese approach, coordinated to Deming's continual improvement techniques.
Intricate, even boring... lol But magnificent analysis!