A Shameless Plug

by Jeremy Beer on June 9, 2010 · 2 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Dearest FPR readers,

Should you have, for some reason, an interest in goings-on in the world of philanthropy and civil society (or as the rest of the English-speaking world writes it, Civil Society), I invite you to lumber on on over to Philanthropy Daily, a new website that I have recently helped to launch, and where I shall be found to blog from time to time.

It is a venture that is not entirely unrelated to what we are doing here at FPR. The goal at Philanthropy Daily is to promote real civil society — the kind not ginned up by, or wholly a subsidiary of, or under the boot of — the government, especially the blood-sucking beast in Washington, D.C. Sounds innocuous and uncontroversial, you say? Alas, alas. There is a reason that Civil Society is capitalized in the U.K., and why we hear about “NGOs” but not “charities” or “nonprofits” when the discussion turns to international affairs or Europe or South America or wherever. Outside America, the Tocquevillian tradition of voluntary associations recognized but not controlled by the state hardly exists. Elsewhere, still much more than here, the “third sector” sucks from the teat of Mother State and engages in the usual whiny rent-seeking that one would therefore expect. It also serves to reinforce the ideology of globalist, secular liberalism and to demand conformity from the often-intractable, embarrassingly traditional peoples that the sector supposedly represents.

I exaggerate, but only a little. Big Society is OK, if it’s the best you can hope for; but authentic civil society of the localist variety we promote here on FPR is much preferable. Gradual government takeover of the philanthropy/charity sector, however, looms. Since cutting spending is hardly imaginable to the typical American pol and voter alike, the privately owned funds of charitable foundations are looked at with longing eyes by governments drenched in red ink. The still more-or-less vibrant sector of mediating institutions looks like a nice potential vehicle for the delivery of “services” — and the creation of new interest groups dependent on the state for support. And why should foundations not be forced to help bring about social progress? They are “tax-advantaged,” after all. You get the idea.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the notion of civil society is itself a creation of the modern nation-state, as Peter Leithart and Bill Cavanaugh argue. But let’s not over-complicate things, shall we?

I hope to see you over at Philanthropy Daily sometime. (Kauffman may pop up from time to time, and Hart, maybe even Deneen.) And bring along your Porcher sensibilities and ideas.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar John Médaille June 9, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Cavanaugh has an even more startling theory than that civil society is a creation of the modern nation state, namely that religion itself is a creature of the state; you can only create the “secular” sphere by marking off its “opposite,” the religious realm. But such a severable realm never existed before. I’m writing a review of his “The Myth of Religious Violence”; I’ll share it with y’all when I get it finished.

avatar Robb June 13, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Can’t wait for the review Dr Médaille. I am reading it right now and appreciate the argument. That civil society might be a creation of the state seems plausible as well. Having worked in that world for a quarter century I have seen the state (in the form of USAID) both help create civil society actors through which it can “program” its money and seek to control them through the same funding which to which they become addicted (the teat of Mr Beer’s article). Having said that, there are civil society actors who steadfastly resist the state for practical, and in some cases theological reasons. They are typically smaller and work at the lowest levels of society, but they engage in critical work.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: