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Philanthropy by the Wealthiest

Fact: The richest eighty-five people in the world have the same combined wealth as the poorest half of the population.

(source: Oxfam report)

With wealth distribution so perversely skewed, does philanthropy by the most affluent among us make up for the negative consequences of inequality?

Peter Buffet, Warren Buffet’s son, wrote:

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering”—feeling better about extreme wealth by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.


Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

We should also remember that the rich often use their wealth in ways that keep current power structure in place, for instance by supporting political candidates who prefer lower taxes for the rich and smaller government spending on social programmes, which ultimately hurt the poor.

(Source: Was Carnegie Right About Philanthropy)


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