Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Philanthropic Foolery

MacKenzie Scott, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos's ex-wife and the second-richest woman in the world,  says, "There's no question in my mind that anyone's personal wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others,"

Scott  married Bezos a year before he founded Amazon and was one of the firm's first employees, received a 4% stake from the divorce settlement, shortly after announcing she had signed the Giving Pledge which commits the super wealthy to give away much of their fortunes to charity. Bezos has not joined the Giving Pledge.

Scott has donated  more than $586 million to racial justice organisations and $399.5 million  to groups aimed at advancing economic mobility. Other causes included gender equality, global development and LGBTQ equality. The list of organisations includes the labour advocacy group One Fair Wage, and other non-profits such as Black Girls Who Code. The $20m gift to Tuskegee University, a historically black college, is the largest in the school's history. In total, MacKenzie Scott says that she has given $1.7bn (£1.3bn) in philanthropic funding.

Brian Mittendorf, a professor at Ohio State University, who researches charity finances, explains, Scott's approach differs from that of many other high-profile billionaires. He said announcements are often built up in advance, with new organisations that can be slow responsible for distributing funds.

"If the goal of doing this was to generate publicity, you wouldn't have done it the way she did," he said. "If the goal was to generate impact...this looks like a pretty good way of doing it."
The list of recipients suggests Scott is trying to address root causes of inequality and racial injustice - priorities that are "more typical" of female than male donors, said Una Osili, a professor of economics and philanthropic studies at Indiana University's Lily School of Philanthropy. The effort to promote a diverse group of organisations - both big and small, led by people of colour and women, also stands out, she said.
 The Socialist Party is frequently perceived as stingy scrooges for we criticise the idea of giving to charity and we scold philanthropy. We do not doubt the sincerity or compassion of those who donate to charities. But what is fostered is the dangerous illusion that, either through charitable alms-giving, the many problems of capitalism can be solved by good-will and kind gestures. The  Socialist Party is not indifferent to human suffering but it points out that society is well capable of solving the problems of poverty, hunger and homelessness. What does not exist is the social system of production and distribution can be matched to people’s need. Capitalism is a world of deliberate scarcity, in order to pursue the aims of competition and profit.

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