A critique of Just Another Emperor
I really don't like Just Another Emperor, and it's because of the spin techniques used to attempt to make the case for the policy changes it advocates. I couldn't contain myself and wrote a lengthy seven part critique on the Global Philanthropy Forum's Discussion Forum on the topic. If you checkout the link, my comments start near the bottom. I'm attaching my conclusion below.
If you read the critique, you can tell this got me going. I'm working on writing this up as an essay (with editing) rather than a series of blog posts.
A Philanthrocapitalist’s Critique of a Critique of Philanthrocapitalism
Part Seven and Conclusion
The Emperor is Better Dressed than You Think
The goal of Just Another Emperor was to make the case for reform of elite philanthropy, the giving of the new generation of philanthrocapitalists. The goal of this critique was to cast significant doubt on these conclusions, by illustrating the spin techniques utilized to reframe and distort the debate. By complimenting individual philanthrocapitalists and social entrepreneurs while denigrating the accomplishments of both communities, the piece sets up straw men to demolish. However, these straw men are not representative and the case falls apart on contact with reality. When Just Another Emperor tells you something is so, there is a very real chance that the opposite is predominant in the real world of philanthropy and social entrepreneurship.
Note what this critique does not say. It does not say that social enterprise is not a vital part of social sector reform: it absolutely is. It does not say that market forces will solve all social issues: they will not and cannot. It doesn’t directly discuss corporate social responsibility, other than to discourage policy outcomes that would make the social sector more dependent on corporations for funding, which today in the U.S. they are not.
This critique does make the strong case that activism and advocacy are not separable from social entrepreneurship, they are foundational to a field whose defining single point of commonality is a commitment to social mission. Social enterprise uses market forces primarily to serve disadvantaged communities through creating jobs and opportunity, not through squeezing profits out of them. It does make the case that the real world philanthrocapitalists invest in far more than social enterprise, and are far more progressive in terms of funding empowerment, funding globally and funding communities of color than traditional charity, foreign aid and government funding.
The policy recommendations in Just Another Emperor seek to ensure that no good deed goes unpunished. While some of them are similar to other recommendations made in the field, the Emperor’s Tax requirement to redistribute 60% of foundation funding to areas specified by the author is a prescription that will kill the patient. Voluntary giving will wither in the face of this compulsion regime. In the United States, we give partial tax breaks to those who give generously: a de facto match in tax dollars for charitable giving. This match does not make up for the Emperor’s Tax, which will discourage giving that will trigger these onerous provisions.
In conclusion, Just Another Emperor fails to make its case. By using the techniques of spin and public relations, it tries to establish a fact set that doesn’t resemble the actual field. It recommends some policy changes that would be more likely to kill its target of elite philanthropy than to reform it, especially given that the new elite philanthropists are more likely to give globally and to social sector causes and leaders drawn from disadvantaged communities. I’m sure that these fields can be improved, but Just Another Emperor is too fundamentally flawed to be the tool for the job.