The Beneficence Of Plutocrats
People often excuse the harms done by plutocrats by citing later philanthropy. The Gates and Carnegie foundations, for example. But the benefits are hardly comparable in size to the harms, and they may not be what we want. Libertarians claim that government cannot spend tax money as wisely as individuals could; why then should we believe plutocrats could spend their profits as wisely as individuals could?
Plutocrats amass their wealth by insuring that profits and ownership come to themselves, rather than more broadly to workers and governments as salaries and taxes.
But there is no reason to think that plutocrats make wiser choices (on average) than the public would. They are simply patrons the way royalty was centuries ago, and prone to wasteful, vain and irrelevant funding choices. Or worse ideological, political and other sectarian funding aimed at cementing their own positions and wealth.
The alternative is simply democratic governance with taxation and support of worthwhile initiatives.
See also: Private Charity
- Here's How Not to Improve Public Schools [More...]
- The Gates Foundation’s big-data experiment wasn’t just a failure. It did real harm.
- Libertarian-splaining to the Poor [More...]
- "Entirely missing from this discussion is the primary, upward form of income redistribution from poor to rich, through structural intervention to reduce the bargaining power of labor and increase the monopoly returns on accumulated property — a redistribution which dwarfs, many times over, compensatory downward forms of redistribution through the welfare state."
- Plutocracy with a Philanthropic Face [More...]
- “A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed,” notes education analyst Joanne Barkan, “to define the national debate on education.” The Gates, Walton, and Broad foundations don’t agree on every single educational policy twist. But they do all follow the same basic script.
- The problem with Michael Bloomberg’s massive donation to Johns Hopkins University [More...]
- This $1.8 billion dollar donation will only assist a few less-needy students. Very inefficient.
Entirely missing from this discussion is the primary, upward form of income redistribution from poor to rich, through structural intervention to reduce the bargaining power of labor and increase the monopoly returns on accumulated property — a redistribution which dwarfs, many times over, compensatory downward forms of redistribution through the welfare state. Missing are the fundamental ways the state has been in structural alliance with capital — not just some hand-waving at “crony capitalism” and “corporatism” — since the beginning of capitalism five or six hundred years ago.
Kevin Carson, "Libertarian-splaining to the Poor"
No one ever considers the Carnegie libraries steeped in the blood of the Homestead Steel workers, but they are. We do not remember that the Rockefeller Foundation is founded on the dead miners of the Colorado Fuel Company and a dozen other performances. We worship Mammon....
Senator Harry Truman, speech to senate, December 20, 1937.