Update: Fighting over Philanthropy

I posted earlier on an interesting debate between two economics writers, Felix Salmon of Reuters and Matthew Bishop of the Economist, about the nature of philanthropy.

The debate, in summary, is if making a profit is in itself a social good — and better than most of those other more limited humanitarian goals of reducing maternal mortality, digging wells or getting food to the hungry.

Salmon was arguing against the notion, and pundits like Bishop, who he thinks are (deliberately or not) confusing the potential social good of business growth with the social good of philanthropy. It was a rousing debate, which ended with a joust from Salmon. Here’s Bishop’s latest retort from his Philanthrocapitalism blog and an excerpt:

Felix is right that how the wealth-creation process of capitalism serves humanity has been debated for centuries, but it has entered a new phase, especially since the global financial crisis. Before then, much of the world had settled on a consensus that what is good for today’s stock price is probably good for humanity. That belief has been proven wrong. We now have an opportunity to build a better capitalism where the self-interest of investors and the interests of society are aligned more effectively. (And no, we don’t believe that a long-term focus in the corporate world would deliver nirvana, as government regulation will certainly still be needed, but we do think it would be a huge step in the right direction.)

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.