A Charitable Industrial Complex?

In his farewell speech to the nation on January 17, 1961 President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the power and influence of what he famously called the “military industrial complex”.

You can watch his speech on YouTube.

Eisenhower noted that before World War II, the US in effect had no permanent defense industry. Rather, it had fought wars by asking producers to switch from making “plough shares to swords”. This had changed since World War II and the advent of the Cold War. He warned that the huge amount of employment and resources commanded by the military industrial complex gave it a political momentum of its own which, unless the society was vigilant, could lead to very undesirable outcomes.

Now Peter Buffet, son of philanthropist Warren Buffet and himself a philanthropist, has applied the idea to what he calls the “Charitable Industrial Complex” in his New York Times article.

Buffet’s argument is quite similar to Eisenhower’s about the defense industry: the charity industry has taken on a momentum all of its own. What’s worse, he argues, this momentum not only has little to do with the problems it is supposedly trying to solve, but actually leads to the perpetuation of the problems it claims it is trying to solve.

Sobering reading for those in the development “industry” who want to change the world.

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