I applaud the Wharton School’s new “social entrepreneurship” programs (“New Wharton programs reflect social entrepreneurship trend, 1/12/2011”), which encourage students to apply their business/management savvy for the greater social good.
It is not coincidental, however, that the welcome increase in such programs has occurred alongside a simultaneous contraction (or outright destruction) of many government-funded social programs — not only in the United States, but also around the world.
Much of the new social entrepreneurship exists to fill the vacuum left by this diminished welfare state. But the comparatively smaller scale and decentralized nature of these private-sector initiatives severely limits their efficacy.
As the inadequate responses to Hurricane Katrina, the Haitian earthquake and many other social problems illustrate vividly, prestigious institutionalized do-gooderism is at best a complement to — not a substitute for — a strong centralized government and the well-maintained infrastructure and extensive social safety net that only it can provide. We should be fighting to revive it.
-- Merlin Chowkwanyun
The author is a joint Ph.D.-MPH candidate in History and in Public Health at Penn. He is writing a dissertation on post-World War II public health.Comments powered by Disqus
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