Hair shirt anyone?

Martin Brookes of New Philanthropy Capital has written a provocative editorial in the latest issue of their Giving Insights newsletter, taking to task a recent book by two leading British commentators Polly Toynbee and David Walker, Unjust Rewards.

Brookes says that they mock Arpad Busson, founder of hedge-fund charity Absolute Return for Kids (a bit like the Robin Hood Foundation in New York) and fiancee of Uma Thurman, for “turning giving into high fashion.” As he says: “To lament the low levels of giving from the rich, as Toynbee and Walker do, and simultaneously criticise individuals for enjoying their philanthropy, is counterproductive.” Some may disagree and want giving only by the pure in heart – but what does that mean? The nature of altruism is something we discuss in the book.

Brookes is clear that “Philanthropy is not an excuse for inequality or unfair taxes.” This is what we’re talking about when we discuss a ‘new social contract’ between the rich and everyone else. Philanthropy is part of that contract, but so too are the manner in which the wealthy have earned their money and the amount of tax they pay. And, as the Peuvian economist Hernando de Soto tells us, this means that the social contract will vary between societies.