Big Philanthropy and its impact on the rest of us; where a “Facebook rant” took Guatemala; and more.

  • Giving it away: This year’s Giving Tuesday broke records, with more than 1 million recorded gifts and at least $116 million raised from about 700,000 donors, its co-founder Henry Timms of the 92nd St Y reports. That’s more than double what was raised last year.
  • While InsidePhilanthropy’s David Callahan offers some tempered praise for Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s pledge to donate most of their megazillions to charity, and in particular to promoting equality, he still thinks it’s “darn scary.” Here’s why:

    Today’s economic inequality may be nothing compared to tomorrow’s civic inequality as more activist mega-donors emerge with big money and big ambitions—at a time, I should add, when government will be spiraling down into fiscal paralysis due to soaring entitlement costs as the boomers retire. If the 20th century was the era of Big Government, the 21st Century is shaping up as the age of Big Philanthropy. This power shift is one of the most important stories of our time….Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that yesterday it was the Koch brothers who had pledged to use their entire fortune (of $85 billion) to shape the direction of U.S. society. The picture would look a bit different, right? Philanthropy is not a meritocracy, nor is there a moral litmus test for entering. Anyone with enough money can play. And as more billionaires enter this game—whether we cheer them or fear them—it’s getting harder for the rest of us to be heard in the public square.

  • The New Yorker’s John Cassidy points out that by (eventually) giving their Facebook stock to an LLC, Zuckerberg and Chan’s giving “comes at a cost to the taxpayer and, arguably, to the broader democratic process. If Zuckerberg and Chan were to cash in their Facebook stock, rather than setting it aside for charity, they would have to pay capital-gains tax on the proceeds, money that could be used to fund government programs. If they willed their wealth to their descendants, then sizable estate taxes would become due on their deaths. By making charitable donations in the form of stock, they, and their heirs, will escape both of these levies.”
  • This is civic tech: Congratulations to this year’s Big Apps NYC winners: AddicaidIssueVoterBenefit KitchenJustFixNYCCityCharge, and Treasures.
  • Writing for the Brookings Foundation blog, Blair Levin of Gig.U and Adie Tomer of its Metropolitan Policy Program offer a concise and useful list of technology issues for cities and economic growth that the presidential candidates ought to be talking more about.
  • The Guatemalan Spring: Radio Ambulante reports on how a Facebook rant by a 53-year-old Guatemalan woman led to a giant public protest rally last spring that took down the country’s president.