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No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  240 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Philanthro-capitalism: How charity became big business

The charitable sector is one of the fastest-growing industries in the global economy. Nearly half of the more than 85,000 private foundations in the United States have come into being since the year 2000. Just under 5,000 more were established in 2011 alone. This deluge of philanthropy has helped create a world where bi
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 20th 2015 by Verso
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May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve read a number of books on philanthropy over the last couple of years, but I think this is the one I would most highly recommend if you were thinking of reading just one. I think that is because it uses Carnegie and Bill Gates as examples to show how philanthropy has been used to make the world in the image of very wealthy people.

Both men made their fortunes by using monopolistic practices and often, if not actually breaking the law, coming so close so as to leave a taint and stench of anyt
David Sasaki
Dec 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle
Talk about a well-timed release. Linsey McGoey’s No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy came out just weeks before Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan announced the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and set off an Internet-wide firestorm about philanthropy and its relationship with inequality and democracy.

This was almost the book I had been waiting for. But it only goes half way, pointing out what’s wrong in billionaire philanthropy without any substantive anal
Greg Watson
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book. Full review to come.
No Such Thing as a Free Gift, by Linsey McGoey, is an interesting, if flawed, critique on philanthro-capitalism. By critique, I mean a scathing, furious rebuke of organizations like the Gate's Foundation, and their upper-crust supporters, who McGoey refers to as "TED-Heads." McGoey is highly critical in her book, and makes some excellent criticisms of a flawed system. For example, she is critical of Gates support for privatized schooling, metrics on teaching performance that instigate disciplina ...more
Nov 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Philanthro-capitalism, the highest stage of capitalism?

[Through my ratings, reviews and edits I'm providing intellectual property and labor to Inc., listed on Nasdaq, which fully owns and in 2014 posted revenues for $90 billion and a $271 million loss. Intellectual property and labor require compensation. Inc. is also requested to provide assurance that its employees and contractors' work conditions meet the highest health and safety standards at all the co
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“What thoughtful rich people call the problem of poverty , thoughtful poor people with equal justice call the problem of riches.”
― R H Tawney
This quote is from the first page, it should give you a sense of what the book is about.

interesting thinking here. more to follow.

Guardian Review-
Financial Times Review-
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I would give this book 10 stars if I could. This is one of the best non-fiction books I've read ever. McGoey does an impressive job of gathering her facts and basing her arguments on clear data. I hesitate to say "arguments," because I feel like McGoey was actually very well-balanced in her perspective. She presents a very fair and thorough view of her subjects, and I thought she was very fair with her depiction of Bill Gates.

This is not a tirade against Gates and his "Billioniare Boys Club." In
I really wanted to like this. I think we should be taking a good look at what McGoey terms philanthrocapitalism, and I think she makes some good points. But ultimately, I think she comes to conclusions that the evidence doesn't support, and she's so eager to criticize that she misses the point.

Here's what I agreed with:

- philanthropy on the grand scale could do a lot better transparency. Because of Board of Directors (usually the people who ultimately make the funding decisions) confidentiality
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best book I have read all year. I thought I knew a lot about philanthropy after working in and studying the aid industry for the past decade or more. This book tackles large philanthropy, specifically Gates, but she also mentions Rockefeller, Koch Brothers, Ted etc. I think this is a must read for anyone working in development in their own country or abroad and should be on related course syllabuses. Main message: Gates has done a lot of good, but can be ruthless in their business t ...more
Brandy Cross
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is my second read through of this

Overall opinion: I really like this book. Linsey is cogent, incredibly well-researched, funny, and likable.

This is a critique, not nearly so vitriolic as some of the other reviews would state, but rather dry, well-balanced, and quite-often adding in caveats to the positive for the critiqued parties. Not everything, of course, is so well balanced, but overall, it's a fair critique, with less bias than one would expect from a work of this nature.

Sander Philipse
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Linsey McGoey presents an important counter-narrative to the prevailing sanctification of billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates. McGoey shows that supposedly rational, innovative philanthro-capitalism is nothing new, drawing parallels between Gates and Gilded Age capitalists like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. In doing so, she highlights many ways in which both the past and modern-day philanthropists skew international aid, use their foundations to make a profit and evade taxes, ...more
Oct 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, sociology
A polemic, certainly, but not an unwarranted one. When TED Talks won't broadcast something of this sort (p 108) in an election year (2012) because it's 'too political' and 'a lot of business managers and entrepreneurs would feel insulted' (p 109), then it becomes ever more important to have volumes such as these to consider as we individually confront disparities in wealth and the dichotomies and dilemmas they present. ...more
Kasey Dietrich
Jul 11, 2020 rated it did not like it
There's a whole lot of coded language in here. I noticed a few things about how this book is written. It tries to trigger and emotional response towards hating the fact that there are rich Africans in Africa. The book also paints philanthropists from days past as well as other topics as black and white without providing much context or evidence. It remains incredibly confused as to who it's audience is since it is trying to dish out the dirt on the Melinda Gates foundation while making as many e ...more
John Leven
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full Disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Gates and Buffett and read this book (which criticizes them both heavily) to try and keep a well-rounded, balanced view of these two role models of mine.

The main argument of this book is that big philanthropies, especially the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are basically untaxed and unregulated, and that that is bad for society. This is a pretty ballsy argument because Gates and his Foundation are highly revered and often cited as examples of the “way capita
Jose Torres
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Because of this book I learned of a vehicle Bill Gates may possibly have in his garage. A Porsche 1988 Coupe 989. Sexy car that one is.

All jokes aside i'm just a simple man reading this book, unlike other reviewers who apparently work/worked in a social field, or even worked directly with a Bill Gates organization.

In my humble opinion this book is a "Good Read".Linsey speaks upon the social behaviors of the extremely wealthy of this modern age. The historical examples and fact full quotes fro
Charles Wagner
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Charity is an excuse for bad governance- Preacher Phil

Robert Fressel, 1911. “I can conceive of no greater mistake most disastrous to the end of religion if not society than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice.”

On an average, foundations donate only 5.5% of their endowment.

The Gates have championed private charter schools which leave the neediest students behind. And, he advocates for the dubious No Child Left Behind debacle. Contributions have also been made for computer sc
Aris Setyawan
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Probably, it is the most common question in the art world. Once, every artist must face this inevitable question: how do we get money to finance our works? No matter what the field: whether fine art, performing art, or any other art branch, financial issue is the problem. Making art sometimes could be really expensive in the term of material, human resource, or any other technical things.

Mostly, to finance their works, artist has three financial option: finance their works by their own money, a
Sep 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonprofits
It is possible to 'do a good deed while at the same time making a good deal'.

Philanthrocapitalism, as the authors coins it, has become the growing trend adopted by the rich to preserve, rather than redistribute their wealth; it serves their business, political, social and legal agendas, a powerful concept that conceals their inexperience and failures in ventures they initiate in the developing nations, be it in the educational, health, or agricultural sectors etc..
The more the organization fail
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
An academician writing about funders with a particular emphasis on gates foundation, this book is hard-hitting and emphatic. While I am well aware of gates' murky reputation, many of the instances and concrete examples were eye openers and shocking. The author has done so well in critiquing the entire philantrocapital industry with not just well researched scholarship, but stories and evidence from the grassroots and the global south. I could connect and draw parallels (evident from my generous ...more
Anne Mcarthur
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very detailed background on philanthropy and the dangerous rise and power of foundations. Working in a field that receives a lot of foundation funding, and seeing that a lot of foundation funding doesn't necessarily make things better, for me, this was an interesting and relevant book. What worries me is that the Gates Foundation is very powerful and has the ability to greatly influence public health directions and policy....backed by a lot of money, power, TED heads and not necessarily result ...more
Jason von Meding
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A really insightful look at both the practical failures of philanthropy as a solution to social ills, and its theoretical underpinnings that are inextricably linked to economic and political ideology. Focusing on the Gates Foundation, McGoey investigates the ways in which big philanthropy battles to ensure that corporate power and profit is maintained, even if doing so ensures systemic injustice and fuels the problems that philanthropy is purported to address.
Vaishnav Tadiparthi
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
A scathing critique of the market-based social enterprise movement, with a deeper look into the more deceptively nefarious practices that the Gates Foundation engages in. Definitely shatters the aura surrounding the contributions of multi-billion dollar foundations to global issues, and questions the legitimacy of the free feel good press that they receive.
Offers little in terms of concrete solutions, but the call for higher accountability and oversight should be well-received.
Andy Bintoro
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-issue
This book argues about how capitalism hide behind philanthropy. This book focus on critics about Gates Foundation. Well, maybe there are some true here, but it would be good to read from two perspectives.
Ian Lambert
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really 3.5 stars because of the turgid prose. Despite that, the content is really interesting and more than a little worrisome.
Jayden gonzalez
Jan 05, 2019 rated it liked it
bill gates invented AIDS
Tim Van Aelst
Nov 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Great sources, great arguments but often boring prose and meandering chapters
Apr 07, 2021 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Jacqueline Worboys
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
This book is a perfect antidote to Melinda Gates’ The Moment of Lift. Linsey McGoey writes with a passion for social justice, knowledge of the philanthrocapitalists’ history, and the damage that big money can bring about in duly elected governments; e.g., school boards that are tempted to privatize certain parts of the public school, World Health Organization’s fight to make Bill Gates see other, larger, destructive issues like typhoid while he focuses singularly on polio, with fewer cases than ...more
Vishal Misra
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent and timely book. McGoey brings the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation under critical scrutiny with this study, and it is about bloody time. It is hard to go days without hearing of some mega donation from yet another tech billionaire. The media fawns over the generous heart of these benefactors, and the recipients are rightly pitied or lambasted as ungrateful and irresponsible. But are these billionaires worth the sycophantic column inches they garner?

McGoey is even handed.
Sweta Gupta
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
After reading this book, I feel this may not have been best one for me to read in the present time. Not to say that it is not written well. It is actually written with a lot of energy, hatred for big wealth and deep mistrust of the philanthropy of the ultra-wealthy, notably Gates but it doesn't spare Rockefellers, Carnegies either.Nor does it spare their former promiscuous President. Perhaps rightly so. Someone needs to ask these questions. Someone needs to point out the severe damages that are ...more
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9 likes · 3 comments
“Quite ironically, the answer to ineffective philanthropy is more of it: the failure of philanthropy is its own success. The perceived necessity — even the indispensability — of a donor like the Gates Foundation grows in proportion to its own inability to achieve the unachievable: mitigating the very inequalities that its own presence might be inadvertently compounding.” 1 likes
“Strangely, the greater the debilitating toll poverty takes on the lives of America’s schoolchildren, the more taboo discussions of poverty have become.” 1 likes
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