Should foundations grovel before government?

Over at PhilanthropyDaily.com, I have a piece on philanthropy maven Rick Cohen’s back-and-forth views of whether foundations should boss government around or be bossed around by government.

Perhaps this doesn’t entail Rick contradicting himself after all. On the one hand, Rick likes it when federal welfare programs are expanding. On the other hand, he and Ravitch dislike the way the current U.S. Department of Education has shown some willingness to move (very slightly) in the direction of education reform favored by the Walton and Gates foundations. These foundations have supported education reforms (charter schools, for instance) that provide more freedom to parents and students, rather than leaving them at the mercy of existing, government-run schools.

If we combine these two inclinations into what we could call “Rick’s Rule,” it seems that foundations are supposed to acquiesce to government if it is expanding itself at the expense of the private sector, but foundations are to confront government and compel it to change course if it is pursuing policies that would expand the freedom of citizens to operate outside narrow government control.

Somehow I don’t think that’s a path to a flourishing charitable sector.

Read the whole article here.

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