The charitable sector is one of the fastest-growing industries in the global economy. Nearly half of the more than 85,000 private foundations in the United States have come into being since the year 2000. Just under 5,000 more were established in 2011 alone. This deluge of philanthropy has helped create a world where billionaires wield more power over education policy, global agriculture, and global health than ever before.
In No Such Thing as a Free Gift, author and academic Linsey McGoey puts this new golden age of philanthropy under the microscope—paying particular attention to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As large charitable organizations replace governments as the providers of social welfare, their largesse becomes suspect. The businesses fronting the money often create the very economic instability and inequality the foundations are purported to solve. We are entering an age when the ideals of social justice are dependent on the strained rectitude and questionable generosity of the mega-rich.