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June 2011

10 Proven Ideas for Giving Back to Wealth Bondage

Wealth Bondage has been good to me. How can I give back? Here are 10 ideas:

  1. Start a soda company and sell soft drinks in the third world for people, planet, and profit.
  2. Promote Prada and have them give $1 to save the ostrich from which each bag was made.
  3. Work with your local church to install Wealth Bondage Best Practices. Serve on the Board.
  4. Hire a ghostwriter to create your Moral Biography. Co-brand with Hyatt. Place in the bedside table of every traveler, along with the Bible.
  5. Have as many children as possible to give Darwinian selection the best shot at working.
  6. Become a sperm or ovum donor. Make your DNA available to disadvantaged populations.
  7. Create a Family Dynasty that will last one thousand years. Film yourself expressing your intentions. Require that the film be shown to your trustees daily to guide the allocation of your Pharaoic Treasures. 
  8. Create a Think Tank devoted to the study of your Moral Biography to adapt the lessons learned for succeeding generations. Establish as a Church. Create costumes and props. Mitre, crooked stick, holographic image of yourself rising from the dead, etc.
  9. Found and fund a school for servants. Let the school be named for the Advisor who best embodies your ideal Serving Professional. I have with me a plan for such a school. And with your permission would like to submit my own resume. A large statue of me might be too much. A heroic bust in the dress of some Greek Philosopher might be in order. Democritus, perhaps, for I am a man of the people. Seriously. 
  10. Know yourself. And I do not mean carnal knowledge. Or not just that.


The Moral Dimension of Staffed Foundations: An Open Letter to H. Peter Karoff


Do you think of this as the moral dimension of grantmaking in staffed foundations? If so, aren’t you talking then about the moral dimension of a specialized kind of organization? The grantmaker’s ethics are subordinated to the organization’s own imperatives, reporting up to a board. How can the grantmaker, who is supervised by a chain of command, be ultra-ethical, when the organization is committed to a bland strategic approach?

Moral and political theory are twins from the same womb (Plato, Hobbes, Hume, Locke, Rouseau).  Economics is their half brother (Hume, Locke, Adam Smith, Marx).  What you are tacitly raising is the moral and political dimension of institutional economic actors, in this case staffed foundations.  How does one influence such non-human agents? By law, probably, or public shame and praise.  Does your work tend then towards a law requiring that x% of grants go to an earmarked list or category of nonprofits? That seems a discouraging and futile effort.  At best it would lead to fewer foundations and new instantiations of political correctness, and new foundation police.

How about the civic dimension? Could you approach this as an insight into social change, how it really happens? Not by simplistic causal mechanisms, nor by strategic intervention in problems, but by inspiring and supporting human agents – citizens – to solve their own problems in active collaboration with committed grantmakers? From Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Peter Block, Tracy Gary, Bill Schambra and others you could draw such a theory of change for complex systems whose agents are themselves moral and political agents, real human beings with minds, hearts, and a conscience of their own, embedded in a community whose fate they influence – as opposed to atomized meat-creatures whose problems will be solved by “the higher ups” as long as we all follow orders as per a plan with many bottomlines and only one method - control from the top. 

When we are all accountable to those who are accountable to no one, as Give Smart glibly suggests, we are truly screwed as a democracy.  Those with money would then buy our government, fix our problems, provide our products and be like gods. That is not merely an ethical or moral problem it is a political nightmare. And we are indeed sleepwalking towards it in hot haste. “Only the super-rich can save us,” as Ralph Nader points out. They could and won't. They are in Nairobi with their kids carrying $20,000 digital cameras, doing a philanthropic travel excursion, backed by a private health plan in which private jets are standing by in case of some health emergency. "Every life has equal value," as Gates Foundation says as its founding ideal. A life is cheaper to save in Nairobi than in Detroit. The poor in Tanzania are more picturesque than in Harlem or East St. Louis. A global company should give back where it draws its cheap labor. As Global Citizens the obligations of the super-rich are clear. They will save those they choose to save, wherever, however, and whenever, maybe. The rest of us can wait and see. Or?



The Sovereingty of Wealth Bondage Worldwide

Alex Andreou:

What is going on in Athens at the moment is resistance against an invasion; an invasion as brutal as that against Poland in 1939. The invading army wears suits instead of uniforms and holds laptops instead of guns, but make no mistake – the attack on our sovereignty is as violent and thorough. Private wealth interests are dictating policy to a sovereign nation, which is expressly and directly against its national interest. Ignore it at your peril. Say to yourselves, if you wish, that perhaps it will stop there. That perhaps the bailiffs will not go after the Portugal and Ireland next. And then Spain and the UK. But it is already beginning to happen. This is why you cannot afford to ignore these events.

In America we too (we the people) are broke. We too, through our elected officials, should now sell public lands, the parks, and whatever else to our corporate friends at prices low enough to make them grateful. If we are good to them they will create good high paying jobs, somewhere on earth. I can't say that promoting philanthropy in Wealth Bondage is much more than a pious fraud, but have you noticed how lapdogs often get the best of treatment, and are even provided for at their owner's death, sometimes with a private foudation? That gives me hope.

Conrad Black sent Back to Jail

It could have been worse except for his exemplary behavior:

The judge told Black she was impressed by the testimonials she had received from inmates and prison staff about his work as a tutor and mentor and was also taking into account his age.

My own work as a morals tutor to America's wealthiest families was cited favorably in my own recent parole board hearing.

Sustaining Mother Capitalism

The true purpose of private grant-making foundations is to sustain and advance the very system of democratic capitalism that gave birth to them. So says an article in Forbes, The Capitalist Tool. On a related note, I just now gave a presentation on major gift fundraising to representatives from workers centers. Afterward, an attendee introduced himself, said he was an undocumented worker in charge of major gifts for his worker center in TX. Did I have any advice? I said, "Ask the wealthy what you can do for them." In other words, as in the Forbes article, advance and sustain the narcissism of wealth. Hear the travails of the wealthy, before talking about your own petty problems. It is not that easy being rich. My friend from the worker center thanked me and asked if he could call me if he ran into any walls.

Giving in which USA?

Nonprofit Quarterly:

What the Giving USA numbers suggest is not only a crisis of declining charitable giving reaching human services or social safety net groups, but a class divide where the groups that do well in charitable solicitations are those with connections, with the social class interrelationships that give them automatic access. Meanwhile, charitable giving for human services is very much the province of the less moneyed donors, the payroll deduction donors, the people who volunteer at the shelter or food pantry or clinic because they know the tangible importance of those institutions to their communities.

Envisioning a Better Future by the Grace of God

Attending a conference for Interfaith Worker Justice and staying at The Cenacle, a retreat center run by Catholic Nuns. On the bulletin board is this, "A community of women transforming the world." I thought of Tracy Gary and others who through purity of intention would transform the world. If a retreat were held for hyper-agent philanthropists, world business leaders, and important politicians fom around the globe, would a religious retreat center be the place to do it, or would be a maximum security for-profit prison be better? At what point does moral insanity become criminal? When the morally insane pass laws condemning themselves, I guess.

What is SRI for ESG?

Good article at Newground, on socially responsible investing with on emphasis on shareholder activism, such as voting proxies to pressure companies to do better on ESG - Environmental, Social, and Governance factors.  Stakeholders become stockholders and vote their shares to influence management. Seems like Capitalism with a twist for the better. Ownership has it priviliges. And we can pool dollars to own and vote shares through intermediaries, like a socially conscious investment fund.