The Philanthropy Threat
Over the course of history, excess wealth was used to solve society's problems. It funded hospitals, food banks, and libraries to help develop minds and build cathedrals to lift spirits. However, charitable giving is becoming less common.
Excess wealth has been used throughout history to solve society's problems. It has funded hospitals, food banks, and built libraries to help develop minds and cathedrals that lift spirits. However, the charitable impulse has been shifting away from worthy causes and reflects a progressive agenda that seeks to transform lives through the expansion state power.
This is partly due to the change in America's wealth nature. In the past, rich people were often employers of middle- and lower-class people and often identified with their local communities. In an increasingly globalized and nationalized world, charitable impulses are more diffused and less focused on personal improvement. Instead, they serve a distinct ideology, often far to the left but also to the libertarian right.
For decades to come, politics and policy debates will be dominated by the predilections that the ultra-rich have. The assets of nonprofits in the United States have increased nine-fold since 1980.
The U.S. government estimates that nonprofits will contribute more than 5.6% to the economy by 2020. They have generated $2.62 trillion in revenue in 2020.
This is only the beginning of this process, as boomers start to leave behind their wealth. Accenture, a consulting firm, projects that the Silent Generation (and baby boomers) will leave their heirs $30 trillion by 2030 and $75 trillion by 2060.
This bounty will be severely limited by the rapid concentration and distribution of assets in ever fewer hands. The top 1% in the U.S. have increased their share by approximately 50% since 2002.
This process has profound class implications. The winners will be the small group of large inheritors. We already see this in Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott; Bill Gates’ now-deceased wife, Melinda French Gates; Laurene Powell Jobs (left-leaning publisher of The Atlantic, and the widow of Apple's founder),
The new money is quite different and younger than the more conservative funders like Charles Koch, Rupert Murdoch and Larry Ellison, who are all in their 70s and 80s. They are being outdone by the "enlightened" rich who are more youthful and have outspent the political right by nearly 2 to 1.
The majority of the progressive elite are connected to firms with oligopolistic market power. Controlling 90% of the markets for search engines (Google) or operating-system softwares (Microsoft) and dominating online retail (Amazon), as well as 90% of smartphones (Google and Apple), does not make executives risk-takers but acquirers. Three tech companies now account for two thirds of all online advertising revenues. This is the vast majority of all ad revenue.
The other pillar of progressive Philanthropy is finance. In the U.S., the number of banks has dropped by a third, while Europe saw a slower but more concentrated consolidation. The five largest banks now control over 45%, compared to less than 30% 20 years ago. The top 10 investment banks control the absolute majority of investment funds, while the five largest banks hold about a third of all assets. These firms have also embraced progressive dogma, especially in the adoption ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance).
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