As the rich get richer and privatization of public functions becomes a rallying cry of conservatives in power, many believe that billionaires and philanthropy will fill the role of governments in aiding those in need. In his 1994 book The Tragedy of American Compassion, conservative thinker Marvin Olasky deconstructed the “welfare state” and imagined a path forward that relied on the private sector without government intervention. Conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Bill Bennett championed Olasky’s view.
[LEFT: The Tragedy of American Compassion posits a world without government aid]
But the idea that the private sector and billionaire philanthropy can handle the world’s problems better than government — or indeed without government — doesn’t work so well in the real world. So says none other than Melinda Gates, who knows something about billionaires and philanthropy. Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says that even the Gates Foundation’s “resources are only a drop in the bucket compared with the needs around the world.” And that even the enormous private philanthropic organization she oversees represents only a “percentage of what governments spend each year to help meet those needs.” In an editorial for CNN, Gates reveals that funding from the US and other donor nations has helped save 122 million children’s lives. Gates wants the Trump administration and Congress to understand that the US continuing to contribute 1% of the federal budget to foreign aid helps keep us safe from disease and more, and also helps create stability and customers for American businesses. Gates says that delegating the aid burden to foundations like Gates’ just isn’t enough, no matter what Marvin Olasky says.