Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More about "false economy"

I really want you to take a look at an article published in Common Dreams called "Beyond Scarcity: Re-Inventing Wealth in a Progressive World". Here's a point made by the writer that has bothered me for some time now:

While conservatives lavish young talent with communal supports and lucrative careers, we refuse to invest in our own. Progressive foundations are only willing to fund projects that are “accountable” and “cost effective” - understood as “accountable to higher authorities” (the funders) and “minimizing waste” by treating workers as an expendable resource. These ideas should sound familiar. They are foundational concepts in the conservative attack on government and the governing philosophy that dominates the corporate world.

This is no accident.

I’ve often heard George Lakoff speak of the divergent philanthropic strategies of conservatives and progressives. He recounts the tale of a few wealthy conservatives - the same families who funded the vast network of think tanks and media outlets that dominate our culture today - advising progressive philanthropists to apply cost-benefit analysis to their grant offering programs. The covert goal of this suggestion was to undermine efforts to build a progressive infrastructure.

This advice was taken. Progressive foundations today typically offer small grants, with lots of strings attached, and the absolute minimum of resources to hire people to do the work. This ensures that “costs” (aka investing in people) are minimized. It also ensures that no money is available for long-term “big picture” work to advance the movement as a whole.
Conservative organizations pay salaries comparable to the private sector to attract talent that might otherwise go the corporate route. Billions have been spent in a multi-decade strategy to create a conservative infrastructure in the form of a network of think tanks that keep conservative talent comfy as people shift from think tank to political office back to think tank.

You know, plenty of people have pointed this out over the past few years. Why aren't progressives getting it?

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