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Rob Reich and Mohit Mookim write in “Wired” about the efforts by Bill Gates, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma to step in and do what the federal government has failed to do in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
Public health is a paradigmatic public good. We should never be dependent on the whims of wealthy donors—as philanthropy is increasingly dominated by the wealthy—for our collective health and well-being.
That would be a betrayal of democracy. Rather than democratic processes determining our collective needs and how to address them, the wealthy would decide for us. We wanted rule by the many; we may get rule by the rich.
The coronavirus pandemic presents us with an immediate need for a response and it reminds us of the importance to invest so that we avoid preventable disasters in the future. At the moment, it’s all hands on deck for the emergency. But this is not what big philanthropy is built for. Or what it can sustain. The richest country in the world must step up to fund public health rather than relying on the richest people in the world to do it piecemeal.
Rob Reich is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and author of Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better. He is the faculty codirector of The Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, which has received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Mohit Mookim is a researcher at the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University.
Curiously, the co-author Rob Reich Of the article leads an organization funded by the Gates Foundation. Will Bill Gates listen to him?