CHAPTER ONEIrrational Exuberance

The Rise of “Philanthrocapitalism”

It is six o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, and the Swan Lake Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary is cleaning up after its latest community rummage sale. Not much money changed hands today, but plenty of warm clothes did, much needed with the onset of winter in this upstate New York town. Prices varied according to people’s ability to pay, and those who couldn’t pay at all — like the mother who brought all her money in dimes, quarters, and pennies inside a plastic bag — were simply given what they needed, and driven home to boot. “Imagine what this would have cost me at Walmart,” she told her driver.

In some ways, there is nothing special about this story, which is repeated a million ...

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