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April 20, 2007


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Please. "...small, widely disbursed donors who co-create the social sector"??

I mean, even in a communist henhouse there's gotta be one big cock.

Face it: big donors are spermanent. They define the "money shot".

(No offense, Ruesga, but I got your "full humanity" right here.)

Pantos Serfidosky

They argue that now, as in ages past, philanthropy has functioned as a social safety valve, redistributing just enough wealth to keep people in low-income communities from becoming uncontrollably militant.

In old country, is word for this:  Duh.

Countess Apraxina

"Apraxina," my father warned me, "the peasants will always be revolting."

Albert Ruesga

No offense taken, Monsieur Pushpin, although I'm not the only gazelle that visits this watering hole.

Pantos Pantosovich, there are plausible alternative theories, nyet? I myself don't buy the wealth redistribution theory partly because that's not what foundations do. Foundations fund an enormous variety of nonprofit organizations, some of which deliver services to poor people, others of which stage plays for senators' wives.

These nonprofit organizations do play a key role, I believe, in helping to create some measure of social cohesion, in part by keeping the experience of the poor from becoming too intolerable. But that's not what I would call "wealth redistribution."

When critics characterize private philanthropy as a "social safety valve redistributing just enough wealth to keep people in low-income communities from becoming uncontrollably militant," they attribute to it a nefarious purpose. In the first Gilded Age, the foundation was a new creation, the killer app that drove the "First Great Wave of Philanthropy," to borrow M. Stannard-Stockton's language. Wealthy people have been establishing foundations at a steady clip ever since, motivated by many factors, including a genuine desire to do the right thing. I suspect few of these more recent philanthropists have been motivated to give because they feared that otherwise the peasants would pick up their torches and pitchforks and storm the mansions of their overlords.

Bruce Trachtenberg

Some of these comments about whether there's a less than charitable motive behind philanthropy reminds me of the old story about the woman who tells the doctor she's worried because her husband keeps acting like a chicken. When asked why she hasn't tried harder to get him to stop, the woman replies: "We need the eggs."

We can all plumb the depths of our imagination to come up with "nefarious" reasons foundations are formed. But I also say "we need the eggs."

The Happy Tutor

Eggs and the Capon too.

Pantos Serfidosky

I make argument of this with female friend. She say, "Stop, Pantos, you wrinkle my brow."

In gentleman way I am good person and so try to see her point in view.

But here is egg:

Turn out she like brow with wrinkle, was clever test of Pantos "full humanity". Pantos fail, but live to fight more than one day. (Is why two egg.)


Pantos Pantosovich, mind your knitting. There's still plenty of dung to heap.

This dude, Gerry, made a salient comment here. An insufficient excerpt:

Ok, so we praise the gift even if the giver is suspect? At least he didn't use [it] for more goons? Presumably he had enough cash to pay as many goons as he wanted and the library money was still left over. First he steals the surplus from his workers by violently surpressing them, and then we are to applaud his generosity?

Who dat?

The Happy Tutor

Author of The Gospel of Wealth.

Dr. Trotsky

These nonprofit organizations do play a key role, I believe, in helping to create some measure of social cohesion

Correct me if my untutored impression is off, but wouldn't the primary goal of this cohesion be a group of wealthowners cohering with each other? See the dinner scene in Tristana: the saintly lady invites the poor, the halt and lame, the insane. They take over and run riot.

Incoherent rabble.

Sally Wilde

The giver is suspect -- of what? Of having asked the senator for a boon while playing a round of golf with him? Of having paid his workers market wages? Of having put unhealthy snacks in the company vending machines, or having cheated on his taxes?

Albert Ruesga

Dr. Trotsky: Wouldn't you have the kind of class coherence you describe without nonprofit action? What would it take? A few rounds of golf?

I see nonprofits contributing to social cohesion in various ways: they strengthen bonds between members of poor communities and the middle class professionals who provide services to them and who give voice to their needs and aspirations; they use the arts to channel and transform class hostilities; they create borderland spaces in which conflicting social claimants can deliberate and work through their disagreements. They provide this social glue in ways too numerous to mention here.

Dr. Trotsky


I was not questioning the value of nonprofits, simply suggesting that social networking can reinforce as well as break through class lines. Philanthropic orgs become a SIG (special interest group) where members meet, establish relationships over fine wines, sometimes become clubby. The putative beneficiaries of their largesse are where?

I spend some of my time working in a nonprofit. Over time it's lost some of its passionate people, and has become increasingly staffed with people (likes hiring likes) who are indistinguishable from corporate execs, who focus on numbers and seem to forget, or not understand, the larger mission. Of course this is simply an anecdote from a sample of one.

Your own post suggests some of the necessary critical perspective from which to begin to address the laudatory accomplishments of nonprofits that you list, not without a certain irony, I suspect.

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