Of course, nobody thinks our government representatives do a good job of allocating resources. Politicians — a bunch of bums! Maybe Mr. Zuckerberg will make wonderful decisions, ones I would personally be happy with. Maybe not. He blew his $100 million donation to the Newark school system, as Dale Russakoff detailed in her recent book, “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” Mr. Zuckerberg has said he has learned from his mistakes. We don’t know whether that’s true because he hasn’t made any decisions with the money he plans to put into his investment vehicle.
I have to start with Jenny Stefanoti’s comment on Facebook:
The title and tone are all wrong but the underlying point here is an important one. We have tax breaks for philanthropic donations, which makes sense. It incentivizes giving over consumption: it seems all the more outrageous to spend on yourself when there’s a multiple on giving your money away.
But when a couple has far more money than they could ever spend on their selves, that argument is lost and we’re left with a system that undermines democracy. Instead of excess wealth being channelled through taxes to systems accountable to citizens, it’s allocated to creating good subject to the preferences of the wealthy. Using an LLC, likely to also allow for political advocacy which a 501c3 does not, further exaggerates the problem. But our democracy is broken and our many multilateral organizations are painfully bureaucratic and ossified, and there’s something compelling to be said for a counterbalance in these massive philanthropic organizations.
Will Mark and Priscilla do a better job creating social value than our government? Probably. Will they advocate for policies in favor of the poor? Probably. But should our tax system incentivize allocations through private rather than public institutions with accountability to citizens? Probably not, at least theoretically. In practice, I’m less sure. Would I love to be involved with what they’re up to? F* yes.
Interesting comments. We often argue for functioning government systems in society, but then when we get fed up with those systems, we to set up parallel functioning systems to fill the void. The non-profit sector is essential to a functioning society, yes
(government shouldn’t be responsible for everything). I can’t help but parallel this with the Aid Industrial Complex (AIC) the world over. Instead of handing over, strengthening and developing government systems, the Complex attempts to solve development problems (mostly) on it’s own, with only symbolic gestures towards strengthening local government capacity to solve those problems.
Mark’s altruistic move is clearly selfish (and it should be), but so is the function of the AIC – selfish attempt to continue pivoting as the solution provider to every development problem, or worse, to never actually fix the problem, but continue raising funds in order to fix the problem.
I wonder if the Zuckerberg’s initiative will out-morph the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?