the Future will be Private

imgresOn the front cover of the Sunday NYTimes was an article about how Australia was going to close down a research center that is considered a baseline for tracking the changes in the world’s atmosphere.  They plan on laying off 350 people.  Scientists across the globe are angry and I am sure we have not heard the last of this.

I believe the future will be private.  What I mean by that is that in order for this research center to survive (and by everything I read it must) is people out of the private sector will have to pay to keep it open.  Philanthropists that have made data around global climate change one of the things that they want to support will be the ones that keep organizations like this going.  The organization will be set up differently.  There will be an executive director and someone will have to raise money or perhaps the money will be put into a trust that just generates enough income every year to keep the organization going.  There might be some other thoughts around this effort such as figuring out ways that the research center can generate capital through the selling of their data instead of just sharing it freely with other Governments.

Years ago people became philanthropic towards the end of their career.  They made enough money and wanted to take some of their cash and make a difference in the world.   Now many people have made money younger, there are third generations of families who are now responsible for giving away their families foundation dollars and both of these groups look at things differently then the generation before.

Governments just do not have the deep pockets we need to remake our roads, change transportation, keep the parks open, educate our children.  There will be more private public partnerships in the future because there will have to be.  People who are giving money to museums will want to see them run a lot more efficient with possible ways of earning revenue too from renting out the space to conducting special trips to ecommerce platforms.  They won’t be ok with someone running the place who is not thoughtful about how money is spent.  The non-profit way of thinking is we can just raise more money from donors and spend freely in ways that profit-run companies do not.  It is a mentality that has been allowed to operate for decades.  I for one do not think it is ok.

The Ford Foundation is thinking ahead.  They are being focused on their giving, becoming more efficient to make a bigger impact.  When they make a grant to an organization someone from the Ford Foundation is going to make sure the money is well spent.  That makes sense.  That is what investors do in the profit world so why not in the non-profit world.  Most foundations spend more time thinking about giving the money away and once they give it to an organization sometimes they never hear from them again.  It makes zero sense.

Governments are going to start coming to the public aka large donors, to fund streets, bridges, schools, tunnels, parks and more.  When Australia is pulling the plug on something that the whole world benefits from because of budget cuts or political turmoil then the future will have to become private.  It is just a matter of time.

Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    Australia (the state) has a very big dog in the climate change fight. The economic health of its corporations is highly dependent directly and indirectly on the export of raw Earth materials. Any data that confirms the negative effects these materials in use have on the climate is politically ‘inconvenient’ . Killing off the data miners is a crude and reprehensible action. Akin to criminal behaviour imho.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Crazy considering how Australia is so affected by climate change

      1. alg0rhythm

        Sense is not what these guys are operating on. Pure cash flow protection, by any means necessary.

    2. Ruth BT

      On the money Jason. The sad, sad reality is that the political conservative’s in govt are mostly climate change deniers (exhibit A: our previous buffoon of a PM, Tony Abbott) and, along with Mr Murdoch’s media have hoodwinked the citizenry. What is doubly tragic is that he now have a Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull who, personally, very much believes and is unable to do anything about it. I’m hoping that we can revisit this in 12 months and instead of being a pariah, we can be a leader.

  2. Emil Sotirov

    There was such a future – it was called feudalism. Everything was privately funded. And when people had no bread to eat, private funders offered them cakes. We know how this ended.

  3. pointsnfigures

    If what you hypothesize comes true, the size and scope of government, along with the tax burden it puts on its people has to diminish greatly. I actually think that private sector will do it better. Great article on how college researchers have become rent seekers:… behind a paywall but a good article

  4. awaldstein

    You may be right but this has a very dark side.If everything is funded by the wealthy then the future is theres–no?

    1. Gotham Gal

      the presidential campaign is being funded by the wealthy (pacs) and it is definitely not for this, there would have to be something in place to make sure that whatever was done, built, etc was done appropriately. just like barry diller is giving money to create a pier for nyc (which is fantastic) the public organization is executing on it.

  5. alg0rhythm

    I disagree. The US federal budget is the largest flow of cash that has ever happened. It needs to be used better. Our military would be a G20 country… and we have one of the most remote locations possible. Most of our communication technology and all nuclear technology comes from government research currently and a lot of med tech.

  6. Brandon Burns

    Privatization didn’t save us from the 2008 crash. In fact, you could easily connect dots from Clinton’s deregulation policies of the 90s directly to the crash.You’ve got to assume that privatization, similarly, won’t save us from whatever natural disaster we’ll fail to see and stop due to the government relying too heavily on private markets to come up with solutions.While the private sector is obviously hugely important, 100% reliance on it in lieu of any government action whatsoever… I don’t think that is a good idea, at all.BTW: I just got back from Mardi Gras in Sydney. Lots of folks were talking about this. And the young folks largely hate policies like this, and the right-wing party that’s currently in charge — seemingly with a lot more vigor than lefty Americans hate Republicans, if you can even believe that. Moves like this are only fueling the anti-right-wing fire over there.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I am purely talking about private money when it comes to non-profits or building infrastructure and putting their name up there. Nothing else.

  7. Cam MacRae

    CSIRO is a political football. My own division was restructured 5 times in the 2.5 years I spent there.The ocean and atmosphere division will not survive simply because it takes an order of magnitude longer to build a world class research institute than it does to destroy one. The latter occurs with the stroke of a pen. Politicians do not want inconvenient facts to interfere with their election campaigns.Thankfully the universities (which are also publicly funded) seem to be hiring ex-CSIRO scientists at quite a clip. Still, the future is pretty grim as postdocs and other early career researchers are having to head overseas — many will not return.