Friday, January 15, 2010

Phianthro- Cocktail

"The philanthrocapitalists are drinking from a heady and seductive cocktail, one part 'irrational exuberance',...;two parts believing that success in business equips them to make the same impact in society at large; a dash or two of the excitement that accompanies any high profile new solution; and an extra degree of fizz from the oxygen of publicity..."

Michael Edwards, Small Change

Great sentence. This dissection of the philanthrocapitalist psyche is in response to a number of their wild statements about the inherent efficiencies of business, markets, and creative capitalism -- and the inefficiencies of most charitable giving. The combination of arrogance, money, and big-sounding results is both wrong-headed and galling. And stirs up some envy and competition.

Change a few words, however, and you could describe some parts of the Obama movement talking about governing and bringing community organizing to the White House. Big success does breed overconfidence about what you can pull off in other venues.

Isn't overconfidence,exuberance, and optimism required for making big change? This state of mind inevitably brings some blinders with it -- and hence overreach and mistakes. But what's the cost/benefit? Are conflicted Hamlets going to get us there? Philanthropcapitalists are doing some good, selling books, and irritating civil society intellectuals and activists. But are their actions undermining other approaches, investments, movements? I wonder.

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