Philanthropists will not save us

Kim Phillips-Fein in Public Books:

What unites Mark Zuckerberg and the Koch Brothers? For many, their politics appear to set them apart. At least before the Cambridge Analytica revelations of last spring, Zuckerberg seemed the darling of a certain kind of liberal, announcing on Oprah Winfrey’s television show that he planned to spend $100 million to fix the Newark school system, declaring (in a talk at the University of California, San Francisco) that he plans to use his limited-liability philanthropic corporation to “cure, prevent or manage all diseases,” promising to use his vast riches to help create “a future for everyone,” as the promotional materials for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative put it—all of which led his name to be batted about as a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2020. The oil magnate Kochs, on the other hand—leading supporters of libertarian political organizations like Americans for Prosperity—have become synonymous with “dark money” efforts by elusive billionaires to push right-wing politics.

But the two are in fact much closer than they seem—both share an underlying commitment to a certain kind of economic hierarchy. As Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All, warns, “Beware rich people who say they want to change the world.” Even philanthropic endeavors associated with liberal causes in truth owe much to a worldview that takes stratification as a positive good.

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