Looking beyond the “aw, neat, what a great person” façade of effective altruism, one clearly finds a level of narcissistic cynicism and a drive to the permanent power that financial immortality affords that is only matched by the amount of funds being dispersed.
The gifts offered by today’s billionaires—the Silicon Valley crowd, et al.—sound great (-ish—very -ish), but to discount the obvious underlying reason is to fail to grasp the insidious nature of their beneficence.
In the past, the rich tended to fund things—museums, schools, libraries, parks—when they gave their money away. These things were meant to accomplish two goals: to keep the benefactors’ names alive so future generations would “look them up” and to generally uplift society. Museums were given to the masses not as a monolithic lump, but as discrete individuals who could choose—except for fourth graders on field trips—to take advantage of them or not.
But effective altruism eschews such methods, focusing on causes and organizations—organizations that can be controlled indefinitely by controlling the flow of funds—in an effort to exert current and future societal control. Joining the Silicon Valley obsession with physical immortality is now the idea of financial—and therefore sociopolitical—immortality.
The creation of philanthropic LLCs to divvy up tech and other zillionaire dollars perpetuates the “lives” of donors by allowing them to forever control politics, policies, and culture. This control also becomes a form of eternal nepotism, as it has the side benefit of really, really helping donors’ individual descendants keep at the center of power and finance (the “Smith Initiative” will always hire a Smith and will always have a Smith on its board).
A key aspect of this “maltruism” is its ability to extend control through soft-sounding enterprises. How can something with “open” and “democracy” and “save” in its name—and a nonpartisan, nonprofit entity to boot—be anything but good?
As to philanthropic LLCs, they are seemingly the preferred way of doing the charity business of our current (and, they hope, forever) overlords. In a nutshell, they are not traditional charities, but organizations that can mix for-profit and nonprofit activities under the same umbrella. For example, in theory, by making money investing in x, you can give more money to y.
Even better, you can decide whether or not to leave your profits in the “charity,” enjoy certain (admittedly limited) tax benefits, and—unlike regular charities—you don’t really have to tell anyone where the money comes from or, more importantly, where it is going.