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Why Philanthropy Is Bad for Democracy: An Interview with Anand Giridharadas

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This article expresses our frustration with arrogant, clueless billionaires like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Betsy DeVos, Michael Bloomberg, Reed Hastings, the Waltons, the Koch brothers, and Mark Zuckerberg. We have long known that they don’t like democracy. It gets in the way of their grand plans to change the world. Why should we—the targets of their plans—have any say? Those of us who are not billionaires think that they should stop rearranging our lives. We don’t want them to disrupt our lives and our institutions. We believe in the idea of one person, one vote. We are losing faith in democracy because these plutocrats have more than one vote. They use their vast resources to buy elections and, what is even cheaper, to buy politicians.

Anand Giridharadas frequented their circles, mainly at the Aspen Institute, which made the mistake of inviting him to join them as a Fellow. He confirms what we suspected. These people are a threat to democracy. They think they are “doing good,” but they are destroying democracy.

It begins:

“In 2015, the journalist Anand Giridharadas was a fellow at the Aspen Institute, a confab of moneyed “thought leaders” where TED-style discourse dominates: ostensibly nonpolitical, often counterintuitive, but never too polemical. In his own speech that year, Giridharadas broke with protocol, accusing his audience of perpetuating the very social problems they thought they were solving through philanthropy. He described what he called the Aspen Consensus: “The winners of our age must be challenged to do more good, but never, ever tell them to do less harm.” The response, he said, was mixed. One private-equity figure called him an “asshole” that evening, but another investor said he’d voiced the struggle of her life. David Brooks, in a New York Times column, called the speech “courageous.” That lecture grew into Winners Take All, Giridharadas’s new jeremiad against philanthropy as we know it. He weaves together scenes at billionaires’ gatherings, profiles of insiders who struggle with ethical conflicts, and a broader history of how America’s wealth inequality and philanthropy grew in tandem.”

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