Saturday, July 27, 2013

Warren Buffet's Son Argues for Dismantling Capitalism in the NYT (Kind of)

Peter Buffet is the son of billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who apparently transferred much of his wealth into charities that he then charged his kids with running.  Peter has a pretty radical-sounding column in Friday's New York Times entitled "The Charitable-Industrial Complex" which spells out some of the ongoing problems with philanthropy.  Peter decries "Philanthropic Colonialism" and continues:
As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity. 
But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.
Amen, Peter!  Those are some pretty serious problems!  What do you propose we do about it?
My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change.

It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code ... [A]s long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.
Woah, "systemic change"?  "Time for a new operating system"?  How did this ever get past the NYT editors, who usually scrupulously prevent any such radical rhetoric from appearing on the Grey Lady's pages?  Oh, wait, I see:
I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.
Such a shame that Peter disavows the only real solution to the problems he agonizes over in an otherwise pretty good column; I suppose that's the price of admission to the NYT's column space.

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