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Billionaire Philanthropy | Munk Debates

SEASON TWO - EPISODE #44

Billionaire Philanthropy

Be it resolved, billionaire philanthropy is bad for society.

Guests
Rob Reich
Beth Breeze

About this episode

Philanthropy, the act of giving, the sharing of one's resources is an inscrutable facet of our social compact. But as global economic trends widen the disparity between the haves and have-nots, the act of philanthropic giving has come under increased scrutiny. In just the last 18 months, billionaires have increased their wealth by $1.2 trillion dollars as markets boom while the rest of the global economy crumbles. And in the spirit of altruism, billionaires have committed portions of this windfall to serve the people most in need. But is it really making a difference? A growing movement of scholars, thinkers, and politicians believe the time has come to call these philanthropic efforts what they are: expensive PR campaigns that valorize extreme wealth and perpetuate a status quo of crushing inequality. If billionaires wanted to help the world, they would push for higher taxes, a greater role for government, and a fairer division of society’s scarce resources.

Supporters of large-scale philanthropy argue the critics' arguments are simplistic and ill informed. Citizens should be angry at governments for letting the urgent problems we face as species fester for generations. It’s billionaire donors, not governments, who are stepping up with creative solutions to some of the biggest global challenges. In our time, billionaire philanthropy is creating tangible benefits for millions of people around the world by addressing urgent public health crises, environmental degradation and pushing for accountability on behalf of all donors. The world is a better place thanks to billionaire philanthropy and we are all benefiting from their charity.

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Guests

Rob Reich

“We should direct our scrutiny at the rich people for how they make their money, as well as how they give it away."

Rob Reich

“We should direct our scrutiny at the rich people for how they make their money, as well as how they give it away."

Rob Reich is an American political scientist. He is a professor of political science at Stanford University, the director of Stanford's McCoy Center for Ethics in Society, co-director of Stanford's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS)] and associate director of Stanford's institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI)] A political theorist, Reich's work focuses primarily on applied ethics, educational inequality and the role of philanthropy in the public sector, along with other topics in liberal democratic theory. 

Rob is a contributor to the Boston Review, a magazine co-edited by former Stanford political science professor Joshua Cohen. Reich was the lead author of their 2013 forum on foundations and democracy, and wrote the essay titled, "What are Foundations For?". In 2018, Princeton University Press published Reich's book Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better, which purports to offer a political theory for philanthropy. 

Beth Breeze

“Philanthropy simply means love of humankind. I'm in favor of more, not less human kindness in our society."

Beth Breeze

“Philanthropy simply means love of humankind. I'm in favor of more, not less human kindness in our society."

Beth Breeze is the Director of the Centre for Philanthropy at University of Kent, which she co-founded in 2008. Beth began her career as a fundraiser for a youth homelessness charity, and spent a decade working in a variety of fundraising, research and charity management roles, including as deputy director at the Institute for Philanthropy.  

Beth has written and edited four books. Her latest book, The New Fundraisers: who organises charitable giving in contemporary society? won the AFP Skystone Research Partners book prize. She has also written a wide range of research reports including ten editions of the annual Coutts Million Pound Donors Report. Her new book, In Defense of Philanthropy, will be released in November of 2021. 

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