Hartmann: Philanthropy Needs More “Imposter Syndrome”

January 4, 2018; Capital Research Center

Writing for the Capital Research Center, Michael Hartmann suggests that philanthropists could use a little more intellectual self-doubt of the kind dubbed by two psychologists in the 1970s as “imposter syndrome,” which some might see as a dark mirror of the virtue of humility.

Hartmann, along with certain other conservative observers of philanthropy, has a longstanding problem with social engineering, which he interprets as being a hallmark of the liberal elite. We might suggest that there are many right of center types who feel they know what would be best for the rest of us great unwashed, so we are less than convinced that this is a problem only of the liberal elite. In any case, Hartmann quotes extensively from Rick Hess, who writes that even more of that particular syndrome might not be such a bad deal for the world at large when it comes to academics, researchers, and policy folk:

After all, when you think about what academics, researchers, and policy types do—which is tell other people how the world works, how we think it should work, and how to change it—it’s clear that a dose of humility is in order. Truth is, I’d love to see more of us show less certainty when it comes to the analyses and prescriptions we so confidently offer. And, since authentic humility seems to be in pretty short supply these days, I’ll happily accept impostor syndrome as a useful facsimile.

Hartmann suggests that if the same critique were applied to much of philanthropy, it would not be out of line. Whether “humility” or “imposter syndrome,” we agree that philanthropy could use more of it.—Ruth McCambridge