What if the headline had read…
This is the headline that ran in The New York Times when it covered the creation of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative:
There’s a modicum of truthful intent in that headline. But here’s an alternative option, with the same degree of accuracy:
“Mark Zuckerberg Vows to Dedicate 99% of His Facebook Shares to Influence Public Policy”
And here is a 3rd, as-accurate-as-the-other-two, possible headline:
“Mark Zuckerberg Vows to Invest 99% of His Facebook Shares”
I’m guessing your reaction to the news - and the reaction writ large - would have been very different had we been greeted by either headline #2 or #3 on December 1st.
Moving beyond the way the media covered the announcement of the CZI (poorly) and the emerging more nuanced discussions of what an LLC can do, it’s really time for us, as a polis, to revisit the mechanisms that distinguish politics, investing, and charity, the values we ascribe to each, and the boundaries that define them.
Using all three tools may be strategically advantageous to donors. But democracies may have good reason to not allow these activities to become interchangeable even as they may be complementary. If we believe there are differences between political activity and charitable giving - for example, if we think one should be transparent and the other has room for anonymity - we need to protect those distinctions.
The blurring of lines between charity, politics, and investing can have some upsides but the results brought about by those who’ve been doing it a long time should give us pause. It’s the systems and rules about these activities that need fixing. And that’s up to us.