Is tainted money better than none for struggling charities?
Arts groups and other charities would starve if forced to follow woke critics’ ethical standards
One of the most celebrated passages in the Bible occurs in St Matthew’s gospel. A rich young man asked Jesus: “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Jesus responds: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.” Alas, charity has always been easier said than done. “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful,” Matthew’s text continues, “for he had great possessions.”
Throughout the succeeding two millennia, the wealthiest inhabitants of the Christian and non-Christian worlds have been groping for compromises with such teaching. Many give some fraction of their riches to the poor or to good causes, maybe to secure some fraction of eternal life, or more plausibly perhaps in the hopes of being remembered as decent citizens.
There is also a tradition of people and businesses that amass wealth by dubious means seeking to atone through acts of generosity. In Britain, it was long understood that all but the most conspicuously crooked charitable donors could go a long way to ensuring knighthoods, and even peerages, by giving a million or three...