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robertogreco : patronage   3

Gospels of Giving for the New Gilded Age | The New Yorker
"Are today’s donor classes solving problems—or creating new ones?"



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We live, it is often said, in a new Gilded Age—an era of extravagant wealth and almost as extravagant displays of generosity. In the past fifteen years, some thirty thousand private foundations have been created, and the number of donor-advised funds has roughly doubled. The Giving Pledge—signed by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, Larry Ellison, and more than a hundred and seventy other gazillionaires who have promised to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy—is the “Gospel” stripped down and updated. And as the new philanthropies have proliferated so, too, have the critiques.

Anand Giridharadas is a journalist who, in 2011, was named a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. The institute is financed by, among other groups, the Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Gates Foundation. The fellowship, according to its Web site, aims to “develop the next generation of community-spirited leaders” by engaging them “in a thought-provoking journey of personal exploration.”

Giridharadas at first found the fellowship to be a pretty sweet deal; it offered free trips to the Rockies and led to invitations from the sorts of people who own Western-themed mansions and fly private jets. After a while, though, he started to feel that something was rotten in the state of Colorado. In 2015, when he was asked to deliver a speech to his fellow-fellows, he used it to condemn what he called “the Aspen Consensus.”

“The Aspen Consensus, in a nutshell, is this,” he said. “The winners of our age must be challenged to do more good. But never, ever tell them to do less harm.” The speech made the Times; people began asking for copies of it; and Giridharadas decided to expand on it. The result is “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.” “I hadn’t planned to write a book on this topic, but the topic chose me,” he writes."



"Inside Philanthropy is a Web site devoted to high-end giving; its tagline is “Who’s Funding What, and Why.” David Callahan is the site’s founder and editor. If Giridharadas worries that the super-wealthy just play at changing the world, Callahan worries they’re going at it in earnest.

“An ever larger and richer upper class is amplifying its influence through large-scale giving in an era when it already has too much clout,” he writes in “The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age.” “Things are going to get worse, too.”

Part of the problem, according to Callahan, lies in the broad way that philanthropy has been defined. Under the federal tax code, an organization that feeds the hungry can count as a philanthropy, and so can a university where students study the problem of hunger, and so, too, can a think tank devoted to downplaying hunger as a problem. All these qualify as what are known, after the relevant tax-code provision, as 501(c)(3)s, meaning that the contributions they receive are tax deductible, and that the earnings on their endowments are largely tax-free. 501(c)(3)s are prohibited from engaging in partisan activity, but, as “The Givers” convincingly argues, activists on both sides of the ideological divide have developed work-arounds.

As a left-leaning example, Callahan cites Tim Gill, who’s been called “the megadonor behind the L.G.B.T.Q.-rights movement.” A software designer, Gill became rich founding and then selling a company called Quark, and he’s donated more than three hundred million dollars toward promoting L.G.B.T.Q. rights. While some of this has been in the form of straight-up political contributions, much of it has been disbursed by Gill’s tax-exempt foundation, which has financed educational efforts, message testing, and—perhaps most important—legal research. “Without a doubt, we would not be where we are without Tim Gill and the Gill Foundation,” Mary Bonauto, the attorney who argued the 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage, told Rolling Stone last year.

On the right, Callahan points to Art Pope, the chairman of a privately held discount-store chain called Variety Wholesalers. Pope has used his wealth to support a network of foundations, based in North Carolina, that advocate for voter-identification—or, if you prefer, voter-suppression—laws. In 2013, pushed by Pope’s network, the North Carolina state legislature enacted a measure requiring residents to present state-issued photo I.D.s at the polls. Then the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law—another Pope-funded group—led the effort to block challenges to the measure. (The I.D. law was struck down, in 2016, by a federal appeals court that held it had been “passed with racially discriminatory intent.”)

It is difficult to say what fraction of philanthropic giving goes toward shaping public policy. Callahan estimates that the figure is somewhere around ten billion dollars a year. Such an amount, he says, might not sound huge, but it’s more than the annual contributions made to candidates, parties, and super-pacs combined. The result is doubly undemocratic. For every billion dollars spent on advocacy tricked out as philanthropy, several hundred million dollars in uncaptured taxes are lost to the federal treasury.

“It’s not just that the megaphones operated by 501(c)(3) groups and financed by a sliver of rich donors have gotten louder and louder, making it harder for ordinary citizens to be heard,” Callahan notes. “It’s that these citizens are helping foot the bill.” That both liberals and conservatives are exploiting the tax code is small consolation.

“When it comes to who gets heard in the public square, ordinary citizens can’t begin to compete with an activist donor class,” Callahan writes. “How many very rich people need to care intensely about a cause to finance megaphones that drown out the voices of everyone else?” he asks. “Not many.”"



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Critiques of “The Gospel of Wealth” didn’t have much impact on Andrew Carnegie. He continued to distribute his fortune, to libraries and museums and universities, until, at the time of his death, in 1919, he had given away some three hundred and fifty million dollars—the equivalent of tens of billions in today’s money. It is hard to imagine that the critiques of the new Carnegies will do much to alter current trend lines.

The Gates Foundation alone, Callahan estimates, will disburse more than a hundred and fifty billion dollars over the next several decades. In just the next twenty years, affluent baby boomers are expected to contribute almost seven trillion dollars to philanthropy. And, the more government spending gets squeezed, the more important nongovernmental spending will become. When congressional Republicans passed their so-called tax-reform bill, they preserved the deduction for charitable contributions even as they capped the deduction for state and local tax payments. Thus, a hundred-million-dollar gift to Harvard will still be fully deductible, while, in many parts of the country, the property taxes paid to support local public schools will not be. It is possible that in the not too distant future philanthropic giving will outstrip federal outlays on non-defense discretionary programs, like education and the arts. This would represent, Callahan notes, a “striking milestone.”

Is that the kind of future we want? As the latest round of critiques makes clear, we probably won’t have much of a say in the matter. The philanthropists will decide, and then it will be left to their foundations to fight it out."
philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  2018  elizabethkolbert  charity  philanthropy  inequality  andrewcarnegie  gildedage  inequity  disparity  wealth  inheritance  hughpricehughes  society  williamjewetttucker  patronage  ethics  wealthdistribution  exploitation  billgates  warrenbuffett  michaelbloomberg  larryellison  anandgiridharadas  aspenconsensus  georgesoros  socialentrepreneurship  laurietisch  darrenwalker  change  democracy  henrykravis  billclinton  davidcallahan  power  taxes  thinktanks  nonprofit  activism  timgill  publicpolicy  politics  economics  us  influence  artpope  votersuppression  law  superpacs  donaldtrump  equality  robertreich  nonprofits  capitalism  control 
august 2018 by robertogreco
The Crowd, the Community, and Patronage | Harry Giles
"I like talking about patronage, though, and I like the idea of opening up what patronage can be. I like making it clear that art is not something that just happens, is not something that other people decide to make happen, but rather something that we all have a stake in making happen, and in making happen in more radical ways. For me, Patreon is a way of not asking single entities for patronage, but asking the crowd — or the community — for support. Like all crowdfunding, it’s a means of circumventing various power structures and barriers to survival, but unlike Kickstarter and most crowdfunding sites, the regular contribution makes it more about sustainable support, long-term income, and a relationship with the people who like what you do.

It’s also just about the only way I can think of to make the art I really want to make. Possibly because I grew up on the internet, making lots of things and giving them away feels natural to me. I don’t just want to make the art that sells, and I don’t just want to make the art that meets the targets of state funding bodies: I want to make the art that I believe in. And I don’t just want to make big monolithic state-of-the-world art projects (though sometimes they’re fun): I want to do little things, and silly things, and radical sparks, and awkward moments that drive a wedge into difficult politics. And I don’t want only the people who can afford it to be able to enjoy my art: I want everyone to be able to enjoy it, and then pay me if they like it. I think I’m good at making art like that. Maybe I want too much. Maybe that’s not the world we’re in together. But I’d like to try, and this seems like a good way of asking everyone if I can."
harrygiles  patronage  art  2014  via:tealtan  funding  making  internet  glvo  openstudioproject  lcproject  small  crowdfunding  income  relationships 
january 2016 by robertogreco
sevensixfive: Losing My Edge: Architectural Informatics (and others)
"(Disclaimer: This is quick and unconsidered)

It is fascinating to watch other disciplines inch closer and closer to the territory that was once claimed by architects. As the profession of architecture continues to shrink, the ground that is ceded does not remain unclaimed for long, and there is new and interesting territory to be discovered at our borders that we no longer seem to have the resources to explore.

Sustainability Consulting, Strategic Masterplanning, Landscape Architecture - all of these other disciplines are very interested in architecture: its literature, its history, and its scope of services. Now add to that the relatively new fields of Service and Interaction Design. Recent articles here and here (and here(and here!)) have all implied that there is a strange relationship between services, distributed computing and cities, with a parallel strangeness in the design of interactions and the design of buildings.

Despite having several friends who are actively working in these fields, I admit that it is sometimes very difficult to understand what it is that they actually do (besides organize, attend, and speak at conferences). Many of them have backgrounds in architecture, and almost all of them are avidly reading Jane Jacobs, Christopher Alexander, Archigram, Situationists - all of this neglected literature from the 60s and 70s that architects themselves had almost forgotten, in our (perhaps bubble-powered) accelerated criticality (and the inevitable post).

So there are all of these people moving in this direction, and there are a few general observations that are worth making about that:

- They seem to think that they have something to learn from the theory and practice of architecture, so let's help them figure out what that is.

- They are creating their own discourse from scratch, outside of academia. Architectural discourse has been supported by schools for so long that it is difficult to remember any other way. The fields of Service and Interaction Design seem to be supported by something more like the feudal corporate patronage structure that architects relied on in the Renaissance. That's very interesting, no? Not the least because despite any purse or apron strings linking them to the corporate world, they still seem to want to talk about ideas, even some of the more out-there quasi-marxist corners of critical theory that academic architects like to frequent. That's kind of fun, right?

- They have no history. Though some might disagree, this is probably a good thing for now (but not for much longer).

- They bring an entrepreneurial startup culture with them. A lot of the work in this area is coming directly out of computer science by way of the old dot.com and web 2.0 pathways, but the thing is, these aren't the casualties, they are the survivors. Many of the people involved with these offices have lived through several busts, and they are thriving. They know about venture capital, public offerings, and bootstrapping. They have business plans. This is kind of exciting, yeah?

For Archinect's '09 predictions last year, I hoped that there would be this massive flow outward from architecture to other disciplines: underemployed architects as secret agents, implanting methodologies into other fields from the inside out. It hasn't happened. Instead, we've lost even more ground to others who are doing the things we do, and it's like the song says: "... to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent ... and they're actually really, really nice." They want to be friends, they want to talk about cities and buildings.

So in the New Year, let's all spend more time hanging out: architects can trade some of our thoughts on cultural context, historicity, and the public realm for some of you all's ideas about agility, narrative, strategery, and business planning, and we'll all hopefully learn a lot."
design  architecture  history  discipline  discourse  crossdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crosspollination  janejacobs  christopheralexander  archigram  fredscharmen  interaction  interactiondesign  reanissance  academia  patronage  servicedesign  situationist  theory  criticaltheory  via:migurski  baltimore  cities  culture  designthinking  interdisciplinary  urbanism 
december 2009 by robertogreco

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