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"Wealthy help humanity more as businessmen and women then as philanthropists"

One of our readers forwarded an article from Kimberley Dennis of the Wall Street Journal. In it she raises great questions about the hype surrounding the "Giving Pledge" from Buffett and Gates. It is a great reminder that aid is only a temporary solution. Self sustaining business will always be needed for long lasting change. Here's some quotes that stand out:


"Bill Gates and Warren Buffett announced this month that 40 of America's richest people have agreed to sign a "Giving Pledge" to donate at least half of their wealth to charity. With a collective net worth said to total $230 billion, that promise translates to at least $115 billion. It's an impressive number. Yet some—including Messrs. Gates and Buffett—say it isn't enough. Perhaps it's actually too much: the wealthy may help humanity more as businessmen and women than as philanthropists."

"What are the chances, after all, that the two forces behind the Giving Pledge will contribute anywhere near as much to the betterment of society through their charity as they have through their business pursuits?  In building Microsoft, Bill Gates changed the way the world creates and shares knowledge.  Warren Buffett's investments have birthed innumerable profitable enterprises, making capital markets work more efficiently and enriching many in the process."

"While businesses may do more for the public good than they're given credit for, philanthropies may do less.  Think about it for a moment: can you point to a single charitable accomplishment that has been as transformative as say, the cell phone or the birth-control pill?"


"I do not mean to belittle philanthropy...My point is simply that there is nothing inherently better or nobler about using one's resources for charitable purposes than for any number of other ones.  If anything, the marketplace does a better job of channeling resources toward where they are most valued, and of punishing failure."

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posted by Justin Forman | 8.31.2010 - 7:11 AM

4 Comments:

Justin. This is so right-on. Bill Gates should know better. Fund business development rather than 'gifts' . How many "microsofts in the jungle" are there, just waiting for a little incentive?
commented by Blogger Red Letter Believers, 9:44 AM  

"Think about it for a moment: can you point to a single charitable accomplishment that has been as transformative as say, the cell phone or the birth-control pill?"

Sure. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health helped fight (and potentially prevent a pandemic of) multiple drug resistant tuberculosis. And I'll bet Zanmi Lasante has transformed more lives in Cange than the cell phone.

Or did you only mean transformative for wealthy Americans?
commented by Anonymous Erik, 5:39 PM  

Business and philanthropy, when done well, both have something important to contribute--generosity is wonderful but 'giving away' such great sums in a wise way isn't easy.

Evidently they also went to China's richest with a similar request: http://kingdomentrepreneur.blogspot.com/2010/09/responsibility-of-entrepreneur.html.

{Re cell phones: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/07/AR2010090706625.html and http://humanosphere.kplu.org/2010/09/mobile-phones-for-the-poor/)

What Erik said. And not all business benefits the poor. Sometimes, the rich just get richer and the poor... Well, they're still there and growing in numbers.
commented by Blogger Evans Presley-McGowan, 2:53 AM  

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