Smart America

“You have a hard time telling what part of the country they come from, because they speak in the same public radio accents and their local identities are submerged in the homogenizing culture of top universities and elite professions. … They believe in credentials and expertise—not just as tools for success, but as qualifications for class entry. … They’re not nationalistic—quite the opposite—but they have a national narrative. Call it Smart America.

“Politically, Smart America came to be associated with the Democratic Party. …

“Its donor class on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley bankrolled Democratic campaigns and was rewarded with influence in Washington. None of this appealed to the party’s old base.”

—      George Packer, Last Best Hope: American in Crisis and Renewal, reviewed in “Philanthropy in George Packer’s ‘four Americas,’” July 8, 2021


Coercive and voluntary philanthropy

“As [Richard T.] Ely moved to address the role of government in Christian social action, he had to redefine not only the term ‘church militant,’ but also what was meant by philanthropy. If Christian duty required philanthropy, … we had to move away from the one-dimensional understanding of philanthropy as wholly voluntary. While the voluntary element of philanthropy was essential, we should also understand that some philanthropy could and must come from government coercion. Ely referred here to the Bible’s praise of the social duties imposed by the law of ancient Israel. The Bible showed, he argued, that “coercive philanthropy must rest on voluntary philanthropy. Neither one alone is sufficient.”

—      Ronald J. Pestritto, America Transformed: The Rise and Legacy of American Progressivism, reviewed in “Richard T. Ely, actually non-eerily, lives,” July 15, 2021


Elite failure and anti-populists

“On the subject of elite failure, there is no international program of inquiry as there is with populism. There are no calls for papers, no generous foundation grant program, no Stanford global elitism project, no incentives at all to discover why experts keep blundering. Indeed, anti-populists find it harder to criticize their colleagues for fouling things up than they did to deride the voting public of America for being angry over those foul-ups.”

—      Thomas Frank, The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism, reviewed in “Philanthropy and anti-populism in Thomas Frank’s The People, No,” August 5, 2021


Between choices

“Revocation of an organization’s tax-exempt status is often seen as a harsh punishment. … Yet doing nothing can be untenable.

“Intermediate sanctions are penalties imposed on the person or persons who engaged in the inappropriate transaction with the tax-exempt organization. The sanctions are considered intermediate because they are between the choices of revocation of tax-exempt status and inaction on the part of the IRS.”

—      Bruce R. Hopkins, The Law of Intermediate Sanctions: A Guide for Nonprofits, reviewed in “‘Intermediate sanctions’ against abuses of tax exemption, 25 years after their enactment,” September 10, 2021


Philanthrocapitalists and religion

“Few of the best-known philanthrocapitalists have been noted for their personal involvement in religion. Wealthy philanthropy motivated by religion is commonly identified as ‘traditional,’ meaning that money is given to recipients who are vetted in terms of religion or some other mark of worthiness and are then in charge of how the funds are spent rather than becoming involved in business activity that is closely guided by the donor. … The line separating traditional philanthropy and philanthrocapitalism, however, is indistinct.”

—      Robert Wuthnow, Why Religion is Good for American Democracy, reviewed in “Robert Wuthnow’s Why Religion is Good for American Democracy and philanthropy,” September 15, 2021


Confined activities

“In return for tax-exempt status, we demand that nonprofits confine their activities to the sphere of charitable causes. With for-profit corporations, we do precisely the reverse—not just to protect corporate shareholders but also to protect the rest of society from frighteningly expansive corporate power to influence.”

—      Vivek Ramaswamy, Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam, reviewed in “Some of Woke, Inc.’s reasoning could be an alarming ‘sleeping giant’ for philanthropy,” September 20, 2021


Philanthropic boldness

“[Peter] Thiel was adding a twist. The New ‘20 Under 20’ program would be limited to teenagers, and it would be entirely philanthropic. They would call the young entrepreneurs Thiel Fellows, and the grants would come with no strings attached. The only condition was that they would have to drop out of school ….

“The fellowship, and the accompanying media push, constituted a major element of Thiel’s attempt to change his public perception. He’d spent the early 2000s playing a role that wasn’t his—the heterosexual, high-living hedge fund manager—now he was fashioning a new character: a bold, risk-taking investor with a burning desire to blow up the system.”

—      Max Chafkin, The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power, reviewed in “Peter Thiel, his Fellows, and boldness,” September 27, 2021


Citizenship in history 

“[C]itizenship can wax and wane—and abruptly vanish. History … is mostly the story of non-citizenship.”

—      Victor Davis Hanson, The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America, reviewed in “Conservatism, philanthropy, and The Dying Citizen,” October 4, 2021


Oligarchically organized protest

“[G]rassroots social protest takes on a different meaning in a world of wealthy benefactors with their own social and political agendas. Movements in the past often attracted wealthy benefactors, frequently local or state figures. Today, however, multibillionaires and well-endowed philanthropic foundations have poured unprecedented amounts into supporting grassroots activism as well as partisan political campaigns. Indeed, today’s politics of the street appears closer to that of the late Roman Republic when oligarchs, such as Caesar, Sulla, and Catiline, organized mobs to serve their factional interests.”

—      Donald T. Critchlow, In Defense of Populism: Protest and American Democracy, reviewed in “Philanthropy, grassroots activism, and politics in In Defense of Populism,” October 18, 2021


Over the head

“We can’t beat someone over the head with charity .... If we do, it’s no longer charity.”

—      Arthur C. Brooks, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt, reviewed in "1 > 10,000,000," November 29, 2021