What We're Reading: Would the World Be Better Off Without Philanthropists?

"Organized philanthropy, like most things, looks different on the inside than it does from the outside," said author Nicholas Lemann in a recent article for the New Yorker. “'Philanthropy' comes from the Greek for 'love of humanity,' and public perceptions of it have usually centered on donors and how humanity-loving they really are. The good guys are generous rich people who give to causes we all approve of, like combatting climate change; the bad guys give in order to launder their reputations (like the opioid-promoting Sackler family) or to advance unsavory goals (like the anti-environmentalist Kochs). Either way, the salient questions about philanthropy, for most people, have to do with the size and the quality of a donor’s heart and soul."

"Saunders-Hastings, situated in the conventions of ideal theory, tends to exempt the larger society from the harsh, raking light she casts on philanthropy; her approach is like comparing your actual spouse to a fictional perfect spouse."

"Even within philanthropy, the people who do most of the work at large foundations are grant officers, who aren’t rich and who usually aren’t as overbearing as the people who made the fortunes they are disbursing. A lot of the daily work of philanthropy takes the form of routinized exchanges between salaried bureaucrats on either side of the transaction."

Read the full article here.