I think so. As I understand the critique (and maybe I’m bringing my own baggage to it) EA brings with it a certain perspective that centers individual action and may have a tendency to overlook collective action and create certain blindspots around collective/political action.That EA principles are not philosophically inconsistent with collective action is not, I believe, actually a very effective counter-argument to that point at all.
I agree. On the same note I really enjoyed Dylan Matthews’ article about George W. Bush’s PEPFAR program, apparently pursued somewhat independently by Bush: https://www.vox.com/2015/7/8/8894019/george-w-bush-pepfar
Wow, thank you! I especially appreciate the handbook, it expresses a lot of my thoughts much better than I could have.
It also made me realise that I didn’t express the point you make in the very first section although it’s kind of critical to my feeling that there’s so much opportunity here—ie that politics is sort of unique in that it calls for mass engagement, and there are so many opportunities to be involved just as a citizen (or group of citizens) without necessarily making it your profession or becoming some kind of expert. Which is not generally often true in other spheres (eg charity) in my opinion.
Thank you for the resources and insightful comments! I pretty much agree with all of that.
If we’re talking US Congress, then I also definitely agree that’s super difficult and a huge investment. While it’ll be relevant for some, maybe the more useful examples would be running for local office, getting involved in some of the organisations that work on primary challenges, or simply supporting the best candidate for office (with money and volunteer time) when elections do come around (looking at you Georgia).
Also for context, my family are American but I’m actually a New Zealand citizen and we have proportional representation which does make the national-level politics a very different beast.
I think the find-the-biggest-demos argument is probably the strongest argument for government spending instead of philanthropy. I really disagree with the nationalism inherent in the premise of the last two defenses for reasons of equity. I also don’t think that the nation is an obvious level to spend philanthropy at when most very rich people made their money through a globalized market
I think there’s a mistake here. Yes it’s partly about “democracy” in the nation-state sense but it’s also a lot more specific than that, and it’s about appropriate decision-making in and by communities that are effected by those decisions.
This is quite obvious in the education policy sphere, which is where this debate often comes up. The question is whether students, parents, teachers, and local communities should be front and center in setting the direction of an education system, or whether it’s a good idea for individual rich people to set that policy agenda.
A similar dynamic happens a huge amount in the developing world, and it’s criticised not only on the basis that it’s anti-democratic and dis-empowering, but also because it rarely works out to decide from the outside what is best for a group of people without their input or buy-in.
I think some areas are more suited to philanthropy than others (Bill Gates for example does a pretty excellent job focussing on things that private philanthropy is unique well suited for). Philanthropy, national-level government, local government—all of these things are better suited to different things. The ultimate point is about accountability to your constituency/beneficiaries which I don’t think is easily discussed in the abstract. What kinds of causes/actions are ripe for private philanthropic investment and which are in need of grassroots democratic intervention is something I’d personally love to see more discussion of.
PS. Sorry for bringing up such an old thread!
Is the argument actually “against” philanthropy though? As I read the original content, the argument is for greater democratic scrutiny of large philanthropic gifts, as well as potential measures to reduce inequality generally and the elimination or minimisation of certain tax breaks, which is a much narrower debate.
I’ve not really seen a serious argument that philanthropy should be done away with. In fact, I think the argument is really more about failures in democracy than failures in philanthropy—democracy’s arguable failure to provide basic needs (thus charitable giving having to pick up the slack) and the influence of money in policy and politics.