A brief excerpt.
Michael Lind’s important new book The New Class War: Saving Democracy From the Managerial Elite is part of what we’ve described as a “serious syllabus of sorts [that] is now finally forming for the coming clarification of conservatism.” In the book, he explicitly includes foundations within its harshly criticized “managerial elite.”
“Scholars like Robert D. Putnam have documented the collapse of the once-flourishing network of American mass-membership civic federations like United Way and the American Legion,” according to Lind.
Overall, the shift of the center of gravity from local chapter-based member associations and church congregations to foundations, foundation-funded nonprofits, and universities represents a transfer of civic and cultural influence away from ordinary people upward to the managerial elite. Many of today’s so-called community organizations are not so much grass roots as AstroTurf (an artificial grass). A contemporary “community activist” is likely to be a university graduate and likely as well to be rich or supported by affluent overclass parents, because of the reliance of nonprofits on unpaid interns and staffers with low salaries. Success in the nonprofit sector frequently depends not on mobilizing ordinary citizens but on getting grants from the program officers of a small number of billionaire-endowed foundations in a few big cities, many of them named for old or new business tycoons, like Ford, Rockefeller, Gates, and Bloomberg. Such “community activists” have more in common with nineteenth-century missionaries sent out to save the “natives” from themselves than with members of local communities who headed local chapters of national volunteer federations in the past.
Later in The New Class War, Lind recommends that “[t]ax laws should be more generous to creedal congregations”—broadly construed to include some secular groups—“that raise their money from their own members than to nonprofit organizations that raise funding from the rich and from donor foundations endowed by the rich.”