17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2009
I'm generally disappointed by business, and for that matter non-fiction books. It's rare to get a fresh idea, let alone one that is argued well. I've followed Mathew Bishop's work over the years was was excited to learn he had a new book. But I confess to some skepticism when I saw he had co-authored a book with a subtitle "How the Rich Can Save the World." When I look at the problems facing the world it seems to me that the rich, more than any other group have messed it up. And what a mess we have.
However, Philanthrocapitalism is a great book, and I can't think of any category of educated person who should not read it. For starters there is a lot of mud on the windshield when it comes to social investing, venture philanthrophy, philanthropreneurship, social innovation, social entrepreneurship and the like. The book provides a vivid and reach exposure to how wealth is increasingly being applied to improve the state of the world. I learned about the ecosystems of social investing, and was stunned to learn what's actually happening in this area.
For some time there has been the expression among the Corporate Social Responsibility community "You do well by doing good." I don't think this has been true. Many companies have done well by being awful - by having terrible labor practices, bad products bolstered by good advertising, externalizing costs (such as industrial emissions) on society and the like. However increasingly in the age of transparency everyone is being held to higher standards. And a new generation of people with wealth are beginning to understand that you can't succeed in a world that is failing.
And what a great read. Every single chapter was packed with interesting stories about the players who are making this happen.
I expect the book will be widely read, and so it should. But my greatest hope is that people with wealth will read it and follow the lead of their most progressive peers. How ironic, should the rich actually end up being key to making this smaller world our children inherit a better and more sustainable one?
Don Tapscott, author Grown Up Digital, Wikinomics, The Naked Corporation and other books.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2008
In this time of recession and government spending cuts, charitable organizations and medical, scientific and social research are under severe pressure to curtail their efforts. But thanks to the return-oriented support of the ultrawealthy, these programs can in many cases continue their critical work. Bishop and Green trace the history of philanthrocapitalism and focus on its implications for modern society. With their emphasis on key players like the Rockefeller Foundation, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates ("Billanthropy"), Bishop and Green provide a clear perspective on how the ultrarich are playing an increasingly important role in making investments--rather than just donations--to solve problems that will transform the lives of humankind. This book is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the future of philanthropy.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2008
We may all be obsessed with our own financial issues in the current downturn but it is likely to make Warren Buffett even richer in the long term so don't let anyone tell you that philanthrocapitalism dies with the credit crunch.
Bishop and Green make this argument powerfully in this impressive dissection of the origins, motivations and likely direction of corporate philanthropy. There are some great stories about the rich and famous - I particularly liked the expletive-ridden exchange between P Diddy and Bill Gates - but this is not an exercise in philanthro-puffery. The authors accept that the chief motivation of many such givers is a lower tax bill. This is a highly-readable, well-crafted exposition of why that shouldn't make a jot of difference.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2011
I have just completed the book and think it excellent. Don't be fooled by its title. It offers a very well rounded survey both of contemporary philanthropy and insights into the history of philanthropy. The authors describe five "golden ages" of philanthropy. of which the fifth is now. Its cast of characters are primarily British, American and contemporary Indian billionaires.
A central thesis is that philanthrocapitalists have the potential to be "hyperagents" able to apply their acumen to "tipping points and bottle necks" in a pluralistic system where governments, corporations and NGOs combine to meet the world's biggest challenges.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2008
This excellent book is the first in-depth account of the new generation of philanthropists who will write the next few chapters of philanthropy. Most of the major new players that are currently coming on stage are covered, with a journalistic ethic of balancing the boosters' claims with the points of the critics. But, the book *is* discussing the voluntary parting of cash from billionaires, so it might be understandable that much of the material is somewhat sympathetic. Enough of the history of philanthropy is woven in to provide the background of past "philanthrocapitalists" like Carnegie and Rockefeller, and demonstrate that financial booms often are followed by a blossoming of giving. Of course, the method of social entrepreneurship is prominently featured.
The book concludes with a tongue-in-cheek imagining of a gathering of the senior philanthrocapitalists in 2025 on Richard Branson's mansion in space: the Gates, Jeff Skoll, Oprah Winfrey, Mo Ibrahim, Angelina Jolie and the new U.S. president, Larry Page.
on July 2, 2012
B&G coin a malapropism with 'Philanthrocapitalism'. It's a very good history of high finance philanthropy, but there's no logic in projecting the effects on capitalism. B&G don't seem to recognize that politics has long ago trumped economics. The impossibility of 'philanthropolitics' precludes anything akin to 'philanthrocapitalism' becoming effective. As the authors point out, governmental economics dwarfs the amounts available to even these richest of financiers.
There are discussions of the efforts of efforts of Gates, Buffet, Turner, Andrew Carnegie and many others past and present. With even handed discussion of possible ulterior motives,
unintended consequences, and ethics of investment by not for profit foundations. Topics include some morphing of non profit foundations to for-profit honoring of founder's wishes
and the economics of awarding prizes. Especially interesting are the X prizes for science and mathematics.
It's a very edifying history and analysis of high finance philanthropy. The material is very original, not easily duplicated elsewhere.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Throughout most of human history the rich have used their money to make more money and, quite frankly, they have often done so at the expense of those without much. This has always been considered the way things are: the rich get richer and the poor get...well, you supply your own line. However in this, the age of the super rich, things are changing; and in this engagingly written book, Matthew Bishop, the New York bureau chief of the Economist, and Michael Green an economist on leave from the UK's Department for International Development, chronicle this change, and give us a look at what we can expect in the future.
The authors begin with a little history of philanthropy as they focus on some of the giants of contemporary philanthropy, most notably Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. These are men who have acquired such a staggering amount of money that it would be irresponsible to leave it all to their relatives or friends. The understanding is that when you have as much money as these guys have--literally billions of dollars--you have an obligation to use that money and the power derived from it for the betterment of humanity. Or at least that is the new way of thinking as this book clearly shows. Even corporate giants like the much criticized Wal-Mart have gotten into what the authors call "The Spirit of Philanthrocapitalism." Consider these words from Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's chief executive:
"What would it take for Wal-Mart to be...at our best all the time? What if we used our size and our resources to make this country and this earth an even better place for all of us: our customers, associates, our children, and generations unborn?...Is this consistent with our business model?" (p. 187)
Considering that corporations in this age of globalization are thought by some to be very much the problem and not the solution to humankind's challenges--see, for example, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (2004) by Joel Bakan--this is a refreshing point of view. And it makes sense when you think about it. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet now spend most of their time redistributing their wealth. Such work is more than a full time job; it's a new career. What if the heads of corporations realized the social and moral responsibility they have incurred by their very success, not through the persons of their retired executives, but through their present day business models?
Bishop and Green devote a chapter to the ideal of "The Good Company." It's obvious that they would like to see corporations do more, especially considering the great challenges that we currently face in terms of pollution, water depletion, global warming, food shortages, corrupt governments, etc. Google comes in for a bit of critical scrutiny from Bishop and Green who believe that the giant multinationals should go beyond the façade of good public relations to the wisdom of enlightened self-interest. They quote Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, as saying, "global corporate citizenship can be considered a long-term investment. Since companies depend on global development, which in turn relies on stability and increased prosperity, it is in their direct interest to help improve the state of the world." Unfortunately, Schwab further notes that "the pursuit of short-term profits at the expense of the long-term best interests of the firm may lead to 'corporate attention disorder,' whereby companies lose focus on the big picture." (p. 181)
The big picture of course is sustainability of your advantageous position in the world economy. I see on television night after night examples of how some companies think they can manage that with slick advertizing. Oil companies present commercials in which they urge people to use less energy. You might ask why they do that until you realize that the commercials have nothing to do with cutting energy use, but everything to do with promoting a positive public image for their company. This is NOT the way to assume social and moral responsibility, especially by companies that are not paying the full environmental costs of doing business while they garner record company profits.
I think in essence this is what this book is about on the deepest level: an attempt to demonstrate through the example of philanthrocapitalism a way for the corporation of the future to become a trusted and valuable member of the world society irrespective of whatever product or service they produce or perform. A corporation should be something more that an amoral entity blind to everything but its bottom line. What profits do the leaders of these giants have when they realize, soon or late, that they will leave this world, as everyone else does, the same way they came in?
Citing examples set by the Gates Foundation, George Soros's Open Society Institute, the Carnegie Corporation and others, the authors are plainly urging those with the wherewithal to take a leadership role in shaping society by funding not just established charities but through the founding and funding other worthwhile projects including those dedicated to educational reforms, disease eradication, and scientific research. They also want the philanthropists of today to influence others not involved in charity to work for the common good. They quote Bill Gates as saying insightfully, "Go get 0.1 percent of the scientists working on erectile dysfunction to come and work on malaria and you will be making a huge contribution." (p. 51)
So, perhaps more than anything, the authors are showing how today's great philanthropists are using their celebrity and their prestige as well as their cash to help make this a better world. Let's hope more of them get involved.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2008
Authors Matthew Bishop and Michael Green have talked to some of the world's most fascinating - and wealthy - people about the innovations they've brought to tackling major humanitarian challenges such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, poverty and hunger. Individually, people like Bill Gates, Bono, Bill Clinton and others have had great impact, but the authors show how the collaborations they've created are producing even more powerful results and changing the way philanthropy works.