That factoid lies buried in an idiotic editorial by one of the Buffett spawn.
According to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.
The editorial is not entirely idiotic. Buffett is frustrated with a massive donorized non-profit sector that exists to make people feel good about themselves. Particularly when it comes to the Third World.
He’s largely right about that, but then instead of questioning the more basic premises, he spins out and begins furiously tossing out sparks that are on the verge of becoming some kind of left-wing manifesto.
It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.
But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.
What is exactly a joyful and fulfilled life? Can you buy it with money? And what exactly is Buffett proposing to change the structure of inequality?
The West did it by developing industry and technology. Buffett is a beneficiary of that, but he doesn’t even bother contemplating it.
Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?
Buffett, is insulated enough from real life, that he can’t seem to grasp that for people at that level being able to make a bit more is a matter of basic survival. And being able to make more than that transforms their society into a functioning culture that runs above the hunter-gatherer stage.
It’s rather bizarre that instead of seeing that this child of privilege launches an ill-considered attack on moving people up as evil consumerism.
Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road.
And in the end we all die. Can kicked.
So what does Buffett propose? Nothing. He has no ideas. Zero. Zip. So why does he have a New York Times op-ed?
My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change.
It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.
What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there.
There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff).
Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.
It’s an old story; we really need a new one.
So what does this mean? Use the money to force some sort of drastically different social setup? Sorry, you can be as rich as Warren Buffett, but you still can’t make Communism work.