Philanthrocapitalists are “hyperagents” who have the capacity to do some essential things far better than anyone else. They do not face elections every few years, like politicians, or suffer the tyranny of shareholder demands for ever-increasing quarterly profits, like CEOs of most public companies. Nor do they have to devote vast amounts of time and resources to raising money, like most heads of NGOs. That frees them to think long-term, to go against conventional wisdom, to take up ideas too risky for government, to deploy substantial resources quickly when the situation demands it—above all, to try something new.
I’m generally disappointed by business books, and for that matter non-fiction books in general. It’s rare to get a fresh idea, let alone one that is argued well. I’ve followed Mathew Bishop’s work (he is New York bureau chief of The Economist) over the years and confess to some skepticism when I saw he had co-authored a book (with Michael Green, an international development expert) entitled: Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World. When I look at the many problems confronting the world today it seems to me that the rich, more than any other group, have messed it up. And what a mess it is.
However, Philanthrocapitalism is a great book, and I can’t think of any category of educated person who should not read it. The authors argue that philanthropists can be critical to helping solve society’s large problems because of their unique perspective.