In 2006, multi- billionaire Warren Buffet of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway began shedding his wealth and giving it toward the greater good. Along with hundreds of millions in personal donations, he also empowered three foundations, one for each of his children to run with funds to donate charitably. That was how his son began to know the world of philanthropy, and began seeing strange behavior from the world’s elite when it came to giving charitably.
In a controversial New York Times article, Peter Buffet explains that many rich donors often get together with heads of state, people with money looking to solve problems that were often created by the very people in the room. Buffet calls it “Philanthropic Colonialism:” rich people assuming they know what’s best for needy communities and doing something about it. Only sometimes, the action is not helpful, and in some cases harmful. He cites an effort to distribute condoms in brothels only leading to premiums for unprotected encounters.
Peter Buffet suggests that the rise of philanthropy has only created peace of mind for the ultra-rich, and has actually done very little to alleviate human suffering. He suggests that micro-lending may only “feed the beast” of capitalistic greed. While he admits that he does not have solid answers, he calls for wide spread, systemic change, and recognition that philanthropy should not be treated the way big business is. He calls for creative thinking and new ways to solve problems.
Forbes writer Howard Husock criticizes the article, saying that Buffet is far too dismissive of the good that modern philanthropy has created. Husock argues that market based systems are the most successful in getting people what they need, and says that Buffet’s thoughts were “rambling observations.” Philanthropy should be seen as a force for small, incremental change rather than an idealistic view where we forgo capitalism altogether and work collectively for human kind.