July 27, 2017

Toy for a Tot / U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Fayloga / Flickr Creative Commons

When the super-wealthy make the decision to give away their money, many of them choose causes that align with their personal values and politics. From Bill and Melinda Gates’ donations to put the Common Core in classrooms to the Koch brothers’ sweeping financial support of conservative causes, it is apparent that the wealthy can use philanthropy as a tool to shape the world in the ways they see fit. David Callahan explores the outsized influence that these donations can have -- and how they can undermine civic equality -- in his new book, The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age.

Three Takeaways 

  • David Callahan sees philanthropy as another form of money in politics. Giving to think-tanks and advocacy organizations, he says, is often more effective than donating directly to campaigns. And it also has the effect of indirectly undermining the influence of voters.
  • Callahan argues that charitable money is best spent funding basic scientific research (such as the Gates Foundation’s work with vaccines), rather than furthering personal ideologies.
  • Philanthropy is doing some of the things that government used to do, according to Callahan. And, when billions of dollars are being used to influence society through charity, more people should have a say in what the priorities are.

More reading 

Bill Gates, David Callahan, Mark Zuckerberg, Business, Culture, philanthropy

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