The Zuckerberg/Chan announcement to give $45B to charity serves as an indicator of the 21st century trend of billionaire philanthropists extending their control of the public square.
"Whatever the high-minded ideals of Zuckerberg and Chan, we’re still talking about a huge amount of power in the hands of two private individuals, and at a time when wealthy elites already have enormous power. In our second Gilded Age, the rich gained huge influence over our electoral system, hired armies of lobbyists to swarm our public officials, and now rule a corporate world that has become so consolidated that it reminds many of the great trusts of the last Gilded Age. Meanwhile, poll after poll shows that ordinary citizens feel increasingly alienated from civic life and distrustful of all institutions.
"Now, with the rise of Big Philanthropy, we’re seeing the logical next act in this age of inequality—the conversion of all those big piles of money into influence that extends into every last corner of U.S. society, not to mention into remote villages in Africa and Asia. Today’s economic inequality may be nothing compared to tomorrow’s civic inequality as more activist mega-donors emerge with big money and big ambitions—at a time, I should add, when government will be spiralling down into fiscal paralysis due to soaring entitlement costs as the boomers retire. If the 20th century was the era of Big Government, the 21st Century is shaping up as the age of Big Philanthropy. This power shift is one of the most important stories of our time."--David Callahan, Inside Philanthropy