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  • DATE August 15, 2013
  • URL oneinstitute.com/tile/charitable-colonialism/

Charitable Colonialism

Peter Buffett on the limits and malfunctions of the charitable impulse

Musician and composer Peter Buffett, the son of business magnate and philanthropist Warren Buffett, writes in a New York Times op-ed that while he and his family are as heavily invested as anyone in philanthropic efforts, he has seen the ways charity-as-usual can backfire, failing to address the underlying causes of poverty, and in some cases, further cementing the poor in positions of extreme disadvantage. He writes:

Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left… As long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

So what would it take to change course?

What’s needed, arguably, is an entrepreneurial push within the various spheres and institutions of society – including businesses, nonprofits, and governments alike – to truly solve underlying problems, not just treat the symptoms on the surface.

Solving problems and creating opportunity are two of the things entrepreneurs do best. They should be free to do just that.