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June 2007

The Pedants of Philanthropy

The novelist, James Kellman, in 1988 in a reading of Chomsky:

Finding new ways of denying reality is a key function of the mainstream intelligentsia.

Reading think tank thinkers to stay up on "philanthropy" is almost as bad as reading critics to stay up on literature. I will sometimes read a paragraph or two in an essay on philanthropy and flip around trying to find the author's bio. I am stunned to find they generally have a PhD from a second or third rate school, followed by a long line of crappy and humiliating jobs.  They don't come up to that standard. Writing on giving they bristle with resentment. Pennies to the poor? When the pennies could go to the think tank thinker? Why give to the poor when we have think tank thinkers right here in America today making less than $200 k? How can donors justify this outrage? It takes one to know one; living in a Dumpster, I can only commiserate. We all do what we must to retain a little dignity while the mind within us dies.

Philanthropy Roundtable 2007 Annual Meeting

The Philanthropy Roundtable’s 2007 Annual Meeting, "Inspiring the Philanthropic Imagination," will be held at The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California, from November 8-10.  The printed invitation and the online registration form indicate that advisors to donors are eligible to attend.  They do mention journalists as well, but not specifically bloggers. Early Registration fee is $950. 

In the printed invitation I noticed not only a breakout moderated by Bill Schambra, on "Learning from Mistakes in Philanthropy," but also one moderated by his colleague from Hudson, Dr. Amy Kass. She is leading a discussion class, "Giving Well, Doing Good: The Philanthropic Vision of Carnegie and Tolstoy." Tolstoy? The pacifist, Christian anarchist? Go Amy!

Tolstoy wrote:

The Anarchists are right in everything; in the negation of the existing order, and in the assertion that, without Authority, there could not be worse violence than that of Authority under existing conditions. They are mistaken only in thinking that Anarchy can be instituted by a revolution. But it will be instituted only by there being more and more people who do not require the protection of governmental power ... There can be only one permanent revolution - a moral one: the regeneration of the inner man.

I suspect Carnegies' Gospel of Wealth will be more congenial to Amy's audience of conservative thinkers and funders.

The contrast between the palace of the millionaire and the cottage of the laborer with us to-day measures the change which has come with civilization. This change, however, is not to be deplored, but welcomed as highly beneficial.  It is well, nay, essential for the progress of the race, that the houses of some should be homes for all that is highest and best in literature and the arts, and for all the refinements of civilization, rather than that none should be so.   Much better this great irregularity than universal squalor.  Without wealth there can be no Mæcenas. 

Given the correlation noted by Carnegie between extreme wealth and excellent taste, I only hope that Amy's breakout room is large enough to accommodate the audience fighting for a seat.  Next year, she might do a session on  Maecenas's friend, Trimalchio.  That, if properly catered, would be a sellout. 

Epistle Dedicatory

Dear Posterity,

You Modern and Postmodern Readers are nothing to me.  Pass me by as I pass you by, in mutual contempt. Complaisant grownups of a corrupt age, your children and grandchildren will live among the ruins. My words are addressed to you, Princes and Princesses of Posterity, to whom all Lasting Legacies are devoted.  Gifthub is a work of Art in the Augustan Tradition, part Sermon, part Satire, and altogether Immortal.  My Legacy is Inspired by a long line of World Class Fools, not least of whom are Diogenes and The Happy Tutor, two distinguished Dumpster Dwellers who, in various guises have provided pro bono moral instruction to the World's Mightiest Knaves.   

You who live on in the future,  forgive us. When the time came for my generation to rise against corruption, and lies in high places, they were timorous, silent and fawning. They spoke of the Market and of Freedom while the ecosystems and democratic traditions died around them. Forgive us for the world we left you, our lasting legacy of shame. Know that a few of us raised our voices to no purpose. Forgive, children, your parents who failed you so miserably. Heirs to sorrow!  Here is your bitter legacy, the sins of the Fathers visited unto you unto countless generations. May your suffering expiate our sins.

Phil Cubeta
Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families

"My Fellow Citizens! Are You Unfit for Self-Governance?" Bellows the Orator


On the whole, Americans are morally unfit for self-governance. Raised, trained, and educated to be acquiescent, the activism required to lead an independent democratic way of life is a practice in which they are utterly unskilled. Authentic, consensual, social democracy is entirely outside their personal political experience.

Leo Strauss felt this way, as did Plato about Athens. So we end up with democracy as spectacle for the rubes as political investors of both parties divide the spoils.  The people are unfit for democracy, I am afraid, as their leaders are unfit for Aristocracy; so what are we to do?