Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Great Op-Ed Piece from Peter Buffett on the 'Charitable-Industrial Complex'

I use this blog to promote all sorts of efforts to address hunger from changes to the economic structure and legislation to acts of charity. Unfortunately, charitable works have become the vehicle most identified with fighting hunger and poverty.

Don't get me wrong, charity makes a huge difference in the lives of many people--it just doesn't address the problem in the long term.  (And I am working on a piece on how baseball players have embraced anti-hunger efforts).  In that context, I would like to share links to an opinion piece written by Peter Buffet in The New York Times, entitled "The Charitable Industrial Complex." And if the last name sounds familiar, Peter Buffett is the son of philanthropist Warren Buffet.

Buffett, a composer and chairman of the NoVo Foundation, argues that charity has become the accepted way of addressing the problems in society, rather than looking at structural problems.  Not only that, it's the same entities that are creating the structural problems that are promoting the charity effort.

I share a few excerpts from the Op-Ed here, but I encourage you to read the full piece.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.

What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there..Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex.    Read Full Op-Ed

(Thanks to my friend Dave Miner for pointing to the Op-Ed).

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