AGRA Watch and its African partners are concerned about the Gates Foundation’s use of private wealth to support public policies which promote the values of late capitalism and benefit multinational corporations at the expense of other groups. Behind the benevolent philanthropist façade used by the Gates Foundation exists the familiar capitalist ambitions that contribute to income inequality, and actually perpetuate the poverty that the philanthropy claims to alleviate. The recent work of Gates and other mega-donors around the country has triggered widespread concern regarding current philanthropic practices. The importance of understanding the nature of philanthropy and the power that great private wealth has over public policy is discussed in a recent article in The Atlantic, written by Benjamin Soskis.
The article notes that throughout the history of philanthropy, there has been a direct relationship between the scale of philanthropy and the questioning of philanthropists’ ambitions. Historically, questioning has come from both sides of the political spectrum; the left has traditionally been concerned about philanthropy’s threat to the federal government, while the right has worried about the threat to small business and American capitalism. Recently, critical analysis has emerged as a result of the increased philanthropic activity and its clear effects on public policy.
Although Soskis focuses on how philanthropists affect domestic policies, AW and its supporters are well aware that the Gates Foundation’s power affects less-wealthy people all over the world. The broad reach of The Gates Foundation certainly heightens the need for the debate that Soskis calls for.