It seems that every time we experience a “gilded age,” the rich, perhaps worried that the pitchforks will soon be at the gates, increase their giving.
According to David Callahan, our guest on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast and the founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy, political polarization has divided the world of large-scale giving as never before.
Each side looks askance at the philanthropists on the other side. For those on the left, the Koch brothers are evil in their giving. For those on the right, George Soros is a symbol of all that is wrong with giving.
Callahan, also the author of The Cheating Culture, explains how the billionaire class, which, over the past 40 years has led the charge to shrink the size of government, now seeks to privatize public good. The super-rich aim to mobilize their wealth and their “I alone can fix it” philosophy to determine where dollars are needed in the public sphere.
Callahan reminds us that this has led to the delusion that the wealthy, no matter how that wealth is acquired, wield some special powers to determine what’s best. The delusion has been amplified by the current occupant of the White House.
All of this, Callahan says, has led to the virtual institutionalization of the wealth gap. What we need now, he argues, is less accumulated wealth dispensed by private individuals, and more redistribution of wealth under public auspices — allowing people to democratically select what goals and values they want to advance.