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Not another emperor

Our most public critic, Michael Edwards, who published Just Another Emperor? The myths and realities of philanthrocapitalism in the spring, has posted an update of his thoughts on the openDemocracy website.  Michael responds to his critics on three issues:
 
1) He admits that his attack was over-generalised but that: “The power of polemics derives in part from the fact that they do involve a certain degree of simplifying focus in order to concentrate on the essentials of an argument.” Our feeling was that this ‘simplifying focus’ actually meant that what has was attacking was a caricature of philanthrocapitalism. Setting up a straw man may be good rhetoric but it doesn’t really help move the debate forward, so we’re glad that Michael now acknowedges philanthrocapitalism as a more diverse and varied phenomenon than the one he attacked in his book.
2) He wants a strong civil society “free to invent solutions that are not dependent on business or government, a space that is the lifeblood of any truly innovative and democratic society.”  Amen to that.  Where we still disagree is that we think the philanthrocapitalists can help to enrich civil society, as Bill Gates, George Soros and Ed Scott did by supporting the One/Make Poverty History campaign, as Jeff Skoll has done through his support to social entrepreurship and through films like An Inconvenient Truth, as Pete Peterson is doing by promoting a debate around the public debt in America, and so on.  But we continue to agree that transparency is important.
3) He agrees that “business thinking” is not the same thing as quantification of every problem.  Yes, some philanthrocapitalists are pushing for better metrics and many of the new philanthropic intermediaries are looking at new ways of measuring performance, but they are quick to acknowledge that this is not always possible and never easy.
 
Philanthrocapitalism poses many challenges – the role of the rich in politics, how to channel scarce philanthropic capital to do the most good, measuring impact (positive and negative), the appropriate division of labour with governments – hopefully the debate can now move on to these substantive issues rather than a blanket dismissal of a force that has the potential to change the world for the better.

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