• Socialism:
    The Turd in the Philanthropic Punch Bowl

    The increasing interest in social democratic and socialist politics in relationship to philanthropy is exemplified in an 18 May 2016 column by New York Times columnist David Brooks. Although it was not his intention, Brooks made a good case for utopian socialism when describing the positive transformation of Lost Hills, California by wealthy philanthropists. Brooks views the“success” of this charitable/nonprofit approach as a viable model for creating change in America “one neighborhood at a time,” and there are countless examples of improvements of lives of people and their communities funded by foundations on a small scale. Indeed, the history of American philanthropy reveals that innovative demonstrations of valuable community problem solving financed by individual donors and foundations through nonprofit organizations can be very beneficial. However, a careful assessment of the sustainability and expansion of such efforts to significant scale also reveals that very few result in necessary systemic change through the transformation of existing power relations and related public policy in health, education, human services, or community economic and workforce development. This is not the primary intention and role of philanthropy or the nonprofit service sector. Rather, it is to maintain public good will about those with vast wealth and, more importantly, divert attention and human and organizational resources away from social democratic/socialist solutions to inherent problems in capitalism regarding inequities and disparities. Understanding this is somewhat like
    finding a turd in the philanthropic punch bowl.