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June 2004

Gilding the Lily Lest it Fester

Michael Lewis via Philanthropoid:

At the end of Harvard's fiscal year last June, the school's endowment held more than $19 billion. That is $12 billion more than it held in 1995. That is more than a million dollars for every student -- each of whom pays 30 grand a year -- and almost a million and a half for every employee.

At what point does the Harvard fund-raising arm say ``enough is enough?'' At no point, of course. Harvard cannot imagine any cause more important than itself.

The apple falls next to the tree, to create others like it. Thus, there is a fatal error in thinking that the rich through philanthropy can take up the slack as government reduces spending for social programs. What will happen, I am afraid, is a shift of funds ever upward toward institutions devoted to the culture of wealth. The more the culture of rich and poor grow apart, the scantier whatever sympathy or common purpose might unite them. The last time we went down that road, in Victorian England, it spawned not only Dickens but Karl Marx. Today we build more prisons, and a gilded dome at Harvard.

Civil Welfare

Jay Hein at Sagamore Institute:

Beyond the debate over particular policy prescriptions is a more fundamental question: How are we to balance the seemingly contradictory goals of empowering people and expanding the safety net at the same time? ....America’s embrace of “tough love” was an essential first act in the move to eliminate the intergenerational dependency that was endemic to AFDC. The next generation of welfare reform needs to join this culture of high expectations with a more robust compassion portfolio for those needing assistance.

I am guarded but interested. Will the wealthy do what is right for the poor through philanthropy? Will rich Christian Churches in all-white Highland Park in Dallas send money to their brothers and sisters, black and brown, in East Dallas? Or will they take their tax break and fall to their knees to thank a just God for blessing Capitalism? And, if the deserving poor, the maid's destitute mother, let's say, gets money from the hand of the rich white man, how must she truckle? Do we want to return to the world of the plantation or landed English gentry, with their "retainers"? Bound by a life of service and gratitude to the master of the manor. By we, I guess, I mean we as a nation. By interested I mean that I would be happy to work, pro bono, with wealthy families to clarify and accomplish their philanthropic goals. When it comes to cases there are good people in all walks of life.

Bollier Blogs

Lucy Bernholz:

"Access to information, the common good, and freedom of creativity are critical concepts for the progressives among us. Lucky for us, David Bollier and friends are at it again - check out the State of the Commons Report and the new Blog by Bollier, On The Commons. This is good and important stuff for philanthropists to consider. "
Amen. I have followed David's work with great interest. We corresponded awhile back about funding for progressive thinkers. Perhaps we can learn from the libertarian and conservative think tanks how to take better care of our thought leaders and how to help them get their ideas heard both among the general public and in Congress.

Funding the Commons

Lucy Bernholz: "So how do we want our philanthropic dollars spent on knowledge? As fees to television studios for reprint permissions? To create knowledge for the commons? To protect the rights of artists and creators and their ability to earn just rewards for their creativity?" How about finding funders for Augmented Social Network? Or for Marty Kearns Greenmedia Toolshed? Or finding a few bucks for David Bollier? Lucy, as an author of a new book on the philanthropic capital markets, how do you think we can best bring together volunteers, activists, and funders in defense of the commons?

The Happy Tutor In Praise of Folly

Tribalism, Wealth United, and our Postmodern Defeat, by the Happy Tutor. Takes Lenore Ealy, Peter Karoff, and I to task, not for our opinions, but for our moderation. Tutor seems to think that incivility will advance the cause of civil society. But then he is an incorrigible Fool drawn from the pseudoxia (false learning) of the infamous monk, Erasmus. (Check out the illustrations for "The Praise of Folly.") My own view is that we had best be polite, at least at Gifthub, whatever Public Stew for the Wealthy the Tutor may wish to run. On his own head be it.

Liberal versus Conservative Philanthropic Strategy

A telling, and for me somewhat demoralizing, post by Lenore Ealy, summarizes a response by Bill Schambra to NCRP's Rick Cohen and his report, "The Axis of Ideology." Lenore and Bill are right that a few of us on the left (only a few, sadly enough) would like to imitate the success of conservative philanthropy in moving public policy.

Continue reading "Liberal versus Conservative Philanthropic Strategy" »

Just Money

Now published: "Just Money - A Critique of Contemporary American Philanthropy, edited and co-authored by H. Peter Karoff, captures the wisdom of a generation of philanthropic leaders and inspires readers to consider their own action in the world." (I ordered a copy and have bumped it to the top of my reading list.)