Why Rich People Mask Their Questionable Ethics With Money

Why Rich People Mask Their Questionable Ethics With Money

Patricia Illingworth

History, Americas


Jeffrey Epstein faced sex trafficking and conspiracy charges when he died in July 2019. 

I teach a course on ethics and philanthropy and have written about how to donate to charities ethically.

Recent news about people who make big charitable gifts acting badly is making me wonder whether philanthropy really does make the world better.

Think about it: Members of the Sackler family, who have given millions to arts institutions, also own Purdue Pharma. That’s the company that patented and aggressively marketed Oxycontin, an approach that helped bring about the opioid crisis. Between 1999 and 2017, close to 218,000 people died from overdoses connected to prescription opioids.

Then there’s Warren Kanders, a major donor to New York City’s Whitney Museum. He stepped down as vice chair of its board in July 2019 over his role as the chief executive of Safariland – a manufacturer of bulletproof vests, bomb-defusing robots and other security products. Artists and activists demanded his ouster after learning that Safariland made the tear gas launched at migrants at the border between Mexico and California.

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