Martin Vander Weyer

Just Giving?

No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy


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A ‘free gift’ can be a morally complex thing. To give £5 to a rough sleeper, without specifying how it should be spent, with or without thanks in return, is a simple act of kindness or charity. To give £50,000 towards a new rough sleepers’ hostel is an act of philanthropy, though you might be accused of vanity if the hostel names a room after you and of self-interest if the project clears rough sleepers from your neighbourhood. To give £5 million to build the whole hostel – to your own specifications, managed by people you have chosen – is an act of ‘philanthrocapitalism’. And, according to Linsey McGoey, it is an act that society should regard not with gratitude but with the deepest suspicion.

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