City Journal Winter 2016

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Guy Sorman
The Philanthropic Spectacle « Back to Story

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You omit billionaire Eli Broad whose efforts to privatize public education in America are actually about disrupting the schools to open-up new investment opportunities in charter schools and the like.

Why the ommision?

This article is pro-Conservative and not balanced at all.
Nonprofit service provider December 26, 2013 at 6:36 AM
Would love to see how much help the Robin Hood foundation has provided in relation to the amount of money it raises. It is the biggest philanthropy for show that I have encountered as a nonprofit service providing employee. My organization has adapted to its will in order to get its money but I see fewer and fewer people served and much much more data collection and reporting that eats up so much of my time and produces no benefit to the organization or people served.
An article in the current issue of On Patrol, the magazine of the USO (Winter 2013-2014), reports on progress being made on a malaria vaccine for “deployed war fighters and people in endemic areas”. The research is being conducted by the Naval Medical Research Center in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Funding has been provided by the Defense Department, the NIH, and as Mr. Sorman reports, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This use of Gates Foundation funding seems to holds real promise of benefit for our military plus vulnerable populations in parts of the world where malaria is common.
I have found that donations given to help very ill such as cancer victims goes to drug companies, who do not manufacture or release findings of cheap treatments discovered because they can not make a large profit.

This proves they care little for mankind - hopefully God will soon take exception to these actions.
CharlieK, you're missing the point b/c you overlook the idea of the spectacle itself.
Excellent article. Too bad mainstream media did not pick up on this and run with it. It highlights that much philanthropy by the very wealthy appears intended to benefit the giver more than the recipient. Your account of the mosquito nets reminds me of a story I read several years ago about small portable water pumps (to help irrigate crops) that a US agency gave out free to African farmers. They were found rusting in sheds, unused. This was contrasted with an entrepreneur who sold human-powered portable water pumps for $100 to farmers. He was lambasted for charging up to 1/4 of a farmer’s yearly income. The pumps were easy to maintain and fix, requiring no tools to assemble/disassemble (ever try to find a Phillips head screwdriver in the African back country?). The farmers loved and used those pumps, many saving to buy 1 or 2 more. A little skin in the game makes all the difference.

Also, for those of you have not heard or read of the Acton Institute, you should check them out ( Amongst the many fine works they do, they have a Samaritan Award they present to charities who do not receive any federal funding. Keep up the excellent reporting.

Wait that's weird: the article from the city journal I cited that seems to contradict the author's claims here, regarding free vs. subsidized mosquito bed nets, is by the very same author.
Maybe he has some new information has changed his mind? Sorry if my tone was a little strident in the above post.
@agwisreal "Should we fight this imaginary threat, or should we live with this imaginary threat?"

Yea, lots and lots of reason and facts there. :rolleyes:
Following up on my previous post about free vs. subsidized mosquito nets: Even this publication (the City Journal) has reported on the finding that giving nets way away for free is more effective than charging a small fee for them, at least to get people to start using them. That is, those who are offered them for free are more likely to take the offer than those who have to pay even a small amount, and both groups learn equally from experience of use that they are effective, and are equally more likely to buy them in the future.
I'm really surprised at the author's low standard of engagement with the evidence when he says "studies have shown" that charging for them is more effective. And I'm dismayed by his vague attempt to undermine Duflo et al.'s research by pointing to her "closeness" to the Gates foundation.

Anybody who cares to assess the empirics can just do an internet search and find the most rigorous studies.

Infuse the good intentions with a little capitalism. Maybe set up a mosquito net manufacturing facility, selling the product locally. Use locally grown hemp, flax, sisal, or bamboo. Now you have helped solve the malaria problem and spawned manufacturing and agricultural industries at the same time. Establish them with ESOP's.
Bill Gates was enriched mainly by Americans, yet his philanthropic largesse is largely confined to overseas. Lots of poor kids in the U.S., Bill, whom your money could benefit.
Seems that Bill is more concerned with his legacy than with American children.
@Shimon, I think the author's main point was at best confused. In order to make it he declared that Bill Gates is a statesman, that Oprah Winfrey's advertisements for herself disguised as philanthropy were equivalent to real charitable giving and that somehow Al Gore's sale of a television network were somehow I related to the other matters.

If his point is that some charitable giving is wasted then it is an obvious and banal point. He seemed more interested in disparaging a few particular individuals whose political positions he disagrees with, even those who adopt children for what must be considered the most personal of reasons.

Great post! We would be wise to make our charitable contributions in secret and not worry about who gets the credit.
Great article, thank you. You see this all the time with the government, building wonderful new housing projects that sometimes have to been abandoned, so on and so on.

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” (T.S. Eliot)
Perhaps if the women would simply stop having unprotected sex we wouldn't have unwanted children. As for a new & "improved" condom, get real! Is this really the most important thing these rich big wigs can worry about?
This article puts me in mind of Tom Lehrer's song, "The Old Dope Peddler"..."doing well by doing good."

But the most applicable quote comes from H.L. Mencken:

"Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art form like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists."

@Charlie K. You clearly did not comprehend the article. Obvioulsy the money is the philantropists but the author's whole point is that it accomplishes nothing. Which defeats the point of spending it. If you are in the public eye people will critique what you do that does not mean they are jealous or just doing it to give the person a hard time.
If Gates and Buffet love government so much, why not pay the 55% death tax that they supported and their patron Obama imposed instead of sheltering the money into tax exempt charities? One set of rules for liberals another for families trying to keep their business or farm operating.
the non profit industry is just that an industry with numerous million dollar a year CEO's and a staff of 100k executives. My neighbors daughter a recent grad of an elite school told me she is going to work for a non profit. she of course mentioned the good she would be doing along with a great starting salary, benefits, and the chance to travel the world.
I could not stop reading. And while I am unable to vouchsafe the accuracy of Mr. Sorman's pronouncements absent further inquiry; I will certainly pursue this inquiry. (I have always wondered at the seeming discrepancy between 'philanthropic' dollars spent and 'per capita' improvements to the targeted life condition.)
Another issue that needs to be addressed: trustees are allowed to pay themselves large sums of money for their stewardship, paid out of trust assets, as well as collect travel expenses. Perhaps for Bill Gates such amounts are trivial, but I have never known a trust lawyer who did not point out the obvious: by setting up a charitable trust one bypasses estate taxes, but is still able to collect serious income form the assets.
Breathtaking piece.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was offering a $100,000 start-up grant to anyone who could design a condom that didn’t interfere with sexual pleasure. Rachel Zimmerman, host of public radio’s CommonHealth, called the Gates Foundation’s initiative “truly inspired.”

LifeStyles Ultra Sensitive, peeps
It's all about image. Reality doesn't count anymore. Just look at what's in the White House. Or the Clintons, probably the sleaziest bunch of creeps to populate the political sphere since most of the Kennedys either shuffled off this mortal coil or made a large enough donation to the DNC to get themselves appointed ambassador to France.
It's all as real as the so-called 'reality shows' on TV. Sometimes it takes as much as a dozen takes before the right authentic reality feel is achieved.
I usually find the articles here interesting and intellectually rigorous. This one is an exception.

First the author conflates philanthropy done to enhance one's 'brand' and profits (Winfrey) with philanthropy where there is no financial benefit to the donor (Gates). The first kind is cheesy, at best, while the other, even if mismanaged or misguided, is operating from a more genuinely altruistic position. To make the case that enormously rich men like Bill Gates have enormous egos seems obvious, beside the point and a case of jealousy. Mr. Gates can indeed spend his money as he wishes. The alternative would be to have the government take it in taxes and spend as it sees fit or for Gates to spend it on himself or leave it all to his children.

The piece begins to lose cohesion and a logical sense when it goes into the sale of Al Gore's network to Al Jazeera. It is irrelevant to the subject at hand, as is the snarky insinuation that celebrities who adopt children do it for publicity.

Until the government confiscates all of the money belonging to the very rich we will continue to see private money spent in ways that each of us will think could have been spent more effectively.

It is sad to see how John Q. Public gets taken daily by scam artists and frauds and yet the media circus continues.

After Obama's election in 2008 I ceased all donations except for those I personally have looked into and been assured of legitimacy.
many average people of good faith give to the gates foundation or cgi in the belief that these men know what they are doing. As pointed out, unlike other philanthropies it is difficult to evaluate their work.These men continue to trade on their often undeserved reputation. Al Gores' sale to al jazzera is the most troubling since the policies of qatar most oppose what gore proclaims to be important. The fact that the transaction was timed to avoid a tax increase makes it an obvious money grab. It is hatd not to be cynical
The flip side of this story is the evil Robber Barons, such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, who gave huge amounts of money for real causes that helped real people. But, of course, they were capitalists.
What today's lefty philanthropists won't do is study the successful "developing countries" such as the Asian tigers which have managed quite well without any donations from rock stars and internet billionaires. They developed by allowing free markets to function, not by planting special rice.
There are two realms of discourse about global warming. In one ring, Al Gore and Rush Limbaugh square off. All we shall ever learn from that ring is some of the tricks of the trade.

In the other ring, we have James Hansen and Bjorn Lomborg. In this ring, advocates for emergency action debate advocates for spending more on adaptation than on avoidance. Between them, there is a wide spectrum of sensible views. I think the Hansen half of the spectrum makes the better case, but the whole discussion takes place within hailing distance of reason and facts.