EVERYONE HATES CHARITY. Let me welcome Jon Chait to the charity-bashing bandwagon. As he observed in a column over the weekend, Warren Buffet's giant charitable contribution "matters as much as an annual increase or decrease of 1/10 of 1% of the federal budget," which gives rise to the question: "How much would it cost to influence the political system to move 1/10 of 1% of the budget out of, say, wasteful subsidies and into the sorts of programs the Gates Foundation supports? I'm not sure, but it's way less than $31 billion."
Quite so. Donating to charities is a great way to support the arts and pretty much the only way to support religious groups you believe in, but as a method of remedying social problems, it leaves an enormous amount to be desired. Failure to recognize this is a huge problem. Even leaving Bill Gates and Buffet to one side, foundations with liberalish sentiments are actually significantly wealthier than the rightwing foundations created to counter them. The difference is that the right's foundations focus on politically efficacious giving, while a huge proportion of liberalish giving is dedicated to fairly ineffective efforts at direct amelioration of problems or efforts to identify "best practices" that go duly ignored by the political system.