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February 2016 Vol. 53 No. 6

Verso


The following review appeared in the February 2016 issue of CHOICE:

Economics
53-2700
HV25
MARC
McGoey, Linsey. No such thing as a free gift: the Gates Foundation and the price of philanthropy. Verso, 2015. 296p index ISBN 9781784780838, $26.95; ISBN 9781784781194 ebook, $26.95.

In this valuable, dense, but accessible book, McGoey (sociology, Univ. of Essex, UK) illuminates a major cultural shift in leadership and control of power in the US.  Through their philanthropy, wealth managers—so-called philanthrocapitalists—are shaping government programs, foreign-aid policies, education, medical research choices, and the creative arts to suit their vision of what is good for the world.  The ideas, assumptions, and assertions related to this philanthropy are not evaluated according to the challenges of a free market of ideas.  Citing past examples—Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford—McGoey notes the profitability and biases of such philanthropy and observes that in gaining their wealth, the philanthropists often helped create the social problems the philanthropy was honored for combating.  The author also points out the philanthrocapitalists’ commitment to the evaluation of charities according to their business efficiency rather than their compassion in charitable decisions.  And confidence in the superiority of the new philanthropists remains a constant.  In the latter half of the book, McGoey observes that though it has done much good, the Gates Foundation, like other philanthropic foundations, has not been accountable for the collateral harm its methods have helped create.  The author concludes that this ceding of control to the wielders of wealth symbolizes a drastic shift in the ideals of a democratic republic.

--J. H. Smith, Wake Forest University

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers.