Gimme All Your Money

I never knew that there actually existed a department at Boston College devoted to sucking up to wealthy people, but apparently there is.

Now, not that Boston College or any other institution that either completely or partially relies on donor should hide their efforts to direct said funds their way.

Just seems the shamelessness of Boston College’s admittance, in public that they grovel for funding slides a little into gauche territory.  I naively assumed that institutions had people behind the lines, out of sight that did this work, whispering in hushed tones over expensive restaurant tables or cooing to their targets over office telephones.

Little did I know that there exists so many wealthy people to court that Boston College can devote a full department to this endeavor.  Such department I’d assume has at least one other paid staff member besides the kindly Robert Kenny who is a “specialist in developmental psychology and moral reasoning”.  A specialist in other words of getting rich people to hand over the cash whether through guilt or possibly psycho-analysis, if you’ve got a buck (or more likely, a few cool millions), Bob’s gonna get it out of you and make you hand it over to him with a smile and a thank you.

Do there really exist so many people having a “25 million or over” club at every university?  Aside from the myriad moral implications of running an institution that supposedly teaches critical thinking and analysis on the whims of a few donors, at what price does this invited philanthropy bring?

On the page describing the department, the BC writer tells us, “Bob has served as the field director for the ‘Joys and Dilemmas of Wealth’ research project which has as its major goal the generation of information and knowledge about the aspirations, dilemmas and personal philosophy of members of households with a net worth of $25 million or more.”

He wrote a whole fluffy book on how rich people can stop feeling bad about being rich by giving the college money.  Most outrageously, Boston College called it “research”.

Why can’t Boston College fund someone to write a book about the joys of supporting your government by paying taxes? Now there’s a worthwhile research topic; find out why Americans are habitually willing to cut off their noses to spite their face when it comes to public funding?  How about a little truth telling to the general public that paying taxes will benefit them by funding infrastructure development, cleaner air and water, a just and speedy court system, better schools, safer roads and even a return to the objective and untainted resource of research funding for major universities?

Don’t hold your breath.  Universities and other institutions prefer the paternalism, specialization and most importantly, the lack of accountability to the public that the private donor stream provides.  No longer do institutions have to worry about the “nanny state” getting all regulatory about equality or even quality in education, research or any other matters relating to their operations.  If funds come from a private donor who says they want to fund research to build the better bubblegum and the funds will employ a few people and fund a few nice paychecks, why not?  So what if its not funding crucially needed research such as renewable energy alternatives, climate change, social behavior and public policy theory and other areas that probably won’t pave the way for anyone group or individual to get rich and won’t attract the imagination of our fickle and jaded public.

So go ahead Robert Kenny, suck up as you must.  This is the new wave of the free market infiltration into every aspect of American culture and life.  Everything is for sale to the highest bidder, no ethical, social or moral considerations need exist to clog up the funding stream.  This is the trickle down that Ronald Reagan and its adherents trumpeted to an  eager public in the 80’s.  This is the trick they believed in with all their hearts; government is bad and millionaires know best.  Give the keys to the kingdom back to the gatekeepers and keep government out of the lives of business and their money.

Don’t count on Robert Kenny or any department in his school to delve into whether allowing the wealthy to keep the money the rest of the country earns for them is really good policy or not.  In fact, apparently there’s no need for any citizen to even expect one hour’s expenditure into a cursory glance at history to learn that the Gilded Age didn’t turn out so well in the end.

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