Monday, August 3, 2009

Is the Independent Sector Any Better at Saving the World than Government? Book Review

Last week's Wall Street Journal had an interesting op-ed piece reviewing Steven Goldberg's new book, "Billions in Drops in Millions of Buckets." The book makes the assertion, essentially, that the nonprofit sector is just as inefficient as government (if not more) in solving social problems precisely because of the lack of sector "government:"

But what about America’s nonprofit sector—organizations that ­concentrate their efforts on exactly such problems, with money from charities, trusts and personal ­philanthropies? They too spend enormous sums. Is their record any better? Not really, says Steven H. Goldberg in “Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets.” We should not, he ­cautions, blame the American character for this failure: There is plenty of compassion and generosity to go around. Nor is bad thinking at fault: There are plenty of bright ideas and innovative programs. No, it is the whole structure of giving that condemns even the best efforts: We collect and spend our charitable dollars in a haphazard and fragmented way, he argues, diluting whatever problem-solving force they may have. 

The reviewer, William A. Schambra, takes issue with the book's essential points.  My reaction was based more on the irony of the assertion, to wit:  "government is inefficient because it is too regimented and nonprofit is inefficient because it is insufficiently regimented.


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