Giving Compass' Take:
- Maribel Morey highlights some of Linsey McGoey's criticisms of modern philanthropy and philanthrocapitalism from No Such Thing as a Free Gift.
- How can criticism help to guide more impactful philanthropy? Do philanthropy thought leaders like the Gates Foundation have a responsibility to respond to criticism and improve their efforts?
- Read more about philanthrocapitalism.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
About halfway through No Such Thing as a Free Gift, her book about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Linsey McGoey suggests that it’s necessary to review Bill Gates’s tactics at Microsoft Corp. in order to understand his current work as a philanthropist. At Microsoft, she explains, Gates’s managers would blacklist journalists as a means of preventing negative coverage of the company’s business practices. She offers a compelling example: “John Dvorak, a columnist at PC Magazine, describes how Microsoft management would list reporters on a whiteboard with the comments ‘Okay,’ ‘Sketchy,’ or ‘Needs work.’ Many reporters believed, Dvorak writes, that if you ended up in the ‘needs work’ category, Microsoft would take pains to try and have you fired.”
If people at the Gates Foundation follow a similar practice with writers who are critical of the foundation, no doubt they will consider McGoey to be someone who “needs work.” Fortunately for her readers, McGoey doesn’t seem to care. A sociologist at the University of Essex, she brings courage and intellectual depth to the task of confronting the Goliath of the philanthropic world. In No Such Thing as a Free Gift, she delivers a well-documented manifesto not only against the Gates Foundation but also, more broadly, against the movement known as “philanthrocapitalism.” I hope that people at the Gates Foundation, instead of dismissing (or blacklisting) McGoey, will treat her with the respect that she deserves both as a scholar and as an engaged global citizen who has a big stake in the activities of their organization.
In her book, McGoey aims to do two things: she seeks to place contemporary philanthrocapitalists’ claims to novelty in historical context, and she intends to explore the social consequences of their funding efforts both inside and outside the United States. She finds that present-day philanthrocapitalists have much in common with earlier philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Like their counterparts today, the industrialists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries made efforts to bring private-sector methods into the philanthropic sector.
Yet McGoey contends that certain attributes of the current cohort of philanthropists are novel. Not only do the philanthropists of our own time act on a wider, more global stage than their predecessors, but they are also more explicit about advancing their own interests. “Philanthropy often opens up markets for US or European-based multinationals which partner with organizations such as the Gates Foundation in order to reach new consumers. Giving more is an avenue for getting more,” McGoey writes.
Read the full article about No Such Thing as a Free Gift by Maribel Morey at Stanford Social Innovation Review.