We need more scrutiny of philanthropy rather than that baseline reaction or attitude of gratitude and celebration.
Big philanthropy can contribute to a democratic society by addressing problems that neither government nor the private sector will take on. Yet philanthropic institutions and foundations are institutional oddities within a democracy: exercises of power by the wealthy with little accountability, donor-directed preferences in perpetuity, and generous tax subsidies. What, if anything, confers democratic legitimacy on foundations? Might foundations be a threat to democratic governance? Or are there modes of operation that illustrate how foundations can support democracy? Stanford political scientist Rob Reich challenges us to consider the role of philanthropy in democratic society.