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Dressing up the elephant in the room
on October 28, 2016
Many studies of the modern economic world spend much time and text on corporations, exchanges, markets, consumer trends, unions, and government bureaucracies. However, these studies often neglect the non-profit or not-for-profit Foundation. This is unfortunate as many of the biggest changes in human society over the past 100 years were driven by money from foundations. Maybe the lack of attention is due to the fact that foundations are a major force only in the United States of America. In all other countries, those with wealth also take on political power, or those in politics use their power to accumulate wealth. Here in the USA, the separation of powers woven into the US Constitution has made it politically difficult and socially unacceptable for the visible combination of political and economic power. And so the ultra-rich have created foundations to influence political decisions and society in ways that are ungoverned by our Constitution.
This book is authored by someone who has worked closely with foundations, and so the text itself is quite friendly towards the history of American foundations. The chapters of the book describe how foundations work, how they originated, how they get their funding, how they distribute their largess, and what has been the public's reaction to their existence and actions. The text provides examples from many of the more famous foundations, such as the Gates, Carnegie, MacArthur, and Ford foundations.
The book also describes some of the failings, such as wasted money, controversial goals, bad publicity campaigns and the like. However, these failings are kept to a minimum. For example, the support that the Rockefeller family and others gave to the Nazis via their foundations is covered in just under a page. This brevity is unfortunate, as the eugenics movement did not originate in Germany or anywhere in Central Europe. It originated in England during the time of Darwin, was transferred over to the USA where it became gospel for many of the leading figures of early 20th century America, such as Henry Ford, Prescott Bush, the Dulles brothers, along with the Rockefeller family. And it was from the USA that eugenics was then transferred back to a prostrate Germany to accept via the vehicle of the Nazis, a political party brought to power by Anglo-American money. For a better understanding of what foundations can do to a society, I recommend the works of William F. Engdahl, Anthony Sutton and Edwin Black to begin with. All write in the English language, though the former is American, the 2nd author is British and the last author is Jewish.
Edwin Black's most recent publication, Financing the Flames, really shows the pervasive effects of foundations and their money, especially in foreign affairs. Overall, my reading of this book is that it is too optimistic and too sympathetic towards the power and influence of foundations. Hence the 3 out of 5 stars.