The Pillars of Liberty Must Not Crumble and Fall

OK, I admit it. Watching the July 4th celebration in Washington, D.C., with all the pageantry, fireworks, and patriotism, was inspiring. I won’t apologize for the lump in my throat it caused. I’m not at all embarrassed by that.

But it seems like some are embarrassed by our nation’s history and even eager to show disdain for our past. 

Amazing Grace offers us all a lesson.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see

Who isn’t moved by this inspirational hymn?

Amazing Grace was John Newton’s expression of gratitude to God for helping him turn from a wicked life as a slave trader to become a Christian minister who repented his personal involvement in the slave trade and became a prominent abolitionist.

You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who would disavow Amazing Grace because of its creator’s transgressions.

But that’s exactly the action some of today’s purity police advocate for America’s founders who owned slaves in their time. 

They are mistaken and their error is undermining America. 

Simply condemning the actions and beliefs of figures from the past because they are not consistent with prevailing moral views is a grievous mistake. The fact is all people are flawed, but, still, some make immeasurable contributions to history.

Political writer Brendan O’Neill sees a connection between the tendency among woke circles to be hostile toward the founding fathers and declining American patriotism.

“…the consequences of the woke elite’s turn against 1776 will be both more mundane, and more far-reaching.,” he says. “Telling American youths that the founding fathers were scoundrels, and that racism is more central than revolution to the soul of the United States, will alienate these young citizens from their nation. It will estrange a new generation of Americans from the history and the meaning of America. This could sow further social disorientation and strife. After all, if you are led to believe that your nation is a place born in sin, pock-marked with unspeakable crimes, why would you take pride in it?”

Abraham Lincoln warned in 1838 that the greatest threats facing America are from within:

 “At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Well said.

American Philanthropies Challenge Capitalism. Huh!

Talk about biting the hand that feeds, or fed, you!

There’s an ambitious, sprawling, and loosely coordinated effort by some of America’s biggest foundations to remake capitalism, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. 

How bizarre. 

“Some of the country’s largest foundations…want to upend the very system that allowed them to build massive endowments and personal fortunes,” writes Alex Daniels with the Chronicle of Philanthropy

“Capitalism must be remade, these foundations argue, because unregulated markets are at the root of the most important social and environmental problems we face,” Marc Gunther wrote in the same journal. “What’s needed, according to an expanding chorus of philanthropy leaders, is a change in the economic system itself.”

The Ford Foundation, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Omidyar Network and others have already committed nearly $500 million over the next five years to transform the economic system that, not incidentally, made possible the great fortunes that underpin their work, according to Gunther.

The controversy isn’t exactly new. The Ford Foundation has been attacked for years for funding initiatives that Henry Ford would surely have disagreed with. That kind of behavior often happens because Foundations end up controlled by professional do-gooders, usually with a liberal education and leftist leanings.

These types are calling for a new code of business ethics, expanded employee ownership of corporations, and rule changes that would put the environment and equitable distribution of wealth on the same footing as making a profit.

Their agenda bears a strong resemblance to the platform of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, wrote Gunther. “There is a lot of overlap,” says Felicia Wong, CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, an influential Washington think tank and a grantee of Ford, Hewlett, and Omidyar.

Scott Walter, president of Capital Research Center, a conservative think tank that focuses on philanthropy, noted that huge foundations like Ford wouldn’t exist without the wealth generated by free-market capitalism.

“If the Ford Foundation’s money is so badly tainted, perhaps they should start on a swift course of no longer possessing it,” Walter says. “Let’s redistribute it.”

The entire controversy has been exacerbated by the growing visibility of younger woke anti-capitalist activists. Often they are in philanthropies run by only slightly older, and experienced, people who think they’re already pretty damn woke, thank you, and don’t need to be lectured by their juniors.  

The environment has pushed expectations far beyond what workplaces previously offered to employees., columnist James Freeman wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “A lot of staff that work for me, they expect the organization to be all the things: a movement, OK, get out the vote, OK, healing, OK, take care of you when you’re sick, OK. It’s all the things,” said one executive director. “Can you get your love and healing at home, please? But I can’t say that, they would crucify me.”

Ryan Grim, writing in the progressive website The Intercept, said some left-leaning philanthropic leaders seem to have felt so much under attack by their own staff that they have adopted a mantra originating with Andy Grove, one of Intel’s founders, “Only the paranoid survive.”

It’s become so toxic that it’s getting more difficult to hire leaders. “Executive directors across the space said they… have tried to organize their hiring process to filter out the most disruptive potential staff. “I’m now at a point where the first thing I wonder about a job applicant is, ‘How likely is this person to blow up my organization from the inside?’” one, leader said to Grim. 

And the turmoil has affected the philanthropies’ ability to do their job. “So much energy has been devoted to the internal strife and internal bullshit that it’s had a real impact on the ability for groups to deliver,” an organization leader told Grim.

Maybe people like Bill Gates, a fierce believer in the fundamentals of capitalism, should worry about the direction future leaders of their foundations will take them. “Flirting with radical change, dramatic change, how we run these systems, I personally — my vote will be not to make a radical change,” he has said.

The temerity of some foundation critics of capitalism is particularly irritating because not only were their foundations created through the success of their founders, but their continuing work is only possible because of capitalism’s success. 

Large foundations like Hewlett are not only the product of free-market capitalism, but also remain tremendous beneficiaries of it., says Robert Stilson, a research specialist with the Capital Research Center, which examines how foundations, charities, and other nonprofits spend their money. 

Stilson points out that according to the foundation’s website, Hewlett’s $14.4 billion endowment is invested mostly in private and public equities, and its performance has consistently exceeded the benchmark. Its most recent tax filings disclosed almost $3.8 billion in corporate stockholdings. “Capitalism drives the creation of wealth at left-of-center philanthropies no less than it does everywhere else,” Stilson said.