I love this because whenever I say to someone who is more conservative than me that I wish the super rich would donate more money, I always get, “They earned that money. They can do whatever they want with it.” And I respond, “Yeah, I wish they’d donate it.”
So do Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. And as super billionaire millionaires, they have set up The Giving Pledge, which asks other super billionaire millionaires to donate AT LEAST 50% of their net worth to charity. Think about that. Think about the amount of money that is. It’s an incredible and beautiful idea. (From MSNBC: “If the individuals on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans pledged half their net worth to charity, that would amount to $600 billion, according to Fortune magazine.”)
And it is coming not from lowly me who shouldn’t be telling those hard-working super rich what I think they should do with their money. It’s coming from two of their own. Who already do what they are asking these other people to do. It’s just pure awesome.
Today it is reported that 40 billionaires have already signed on. 40! Billionaires! They have agreed to spend AT LEAST 50% of their money on charity. Holy shit buckets. The majority of their enormous wealth will go to helping others.
For more on specifics, MSNBC:
In addition to Buffett and Gates — America’s two wealthiest individuals, with a combined net worth of $90 million, according to Forbes — 38 other billionaires are taking the give-it-away pledge. They include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, entertainment executive Barry Diller, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens, media mogul Ted Turner, David Rockefeller, film director George Lucas and investor Ronald Perelman.
The website lists, publicly, who these billionaires are. And each of them have written letters about why they are giving. Some are simply coming out publicly for the first time about the vast amounts of money that they have been donating for years, like Larry Ellison, founder and CEO of Oracle:
Many years ago, I put virtually all of my assets into a trust with the intent of giving away at least 95% of my wealth to charitable causes. I have already given hundreds of millions of dollars to medical research and education, and I will give billions more over time. Until now, I have done this giving quietly – because I have long believed that charitable giving is a personal and private matter. So why am I going public now? Warren Buffett personally asked me to write this letter because he said I would be “setting an example” and “influencing others” to give. I hope he’s right.
Again, being public about it is important. That matters to Buffet and Gates.
Let’s give a shout out to Shelby White, the woman on the list who is listed by herself (her profile is still blank so we don’t yet have her letter explaining her decision to donate her money publicly through The Giving Pledge, but you can read more about her here).
And then let’s note who isn’t yet on the list. None of the four Walton heirs. You know, the children of the founder of Walmart. According to Forbes, back in September 2009, the heirs are each worth about $20 billion and are the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th richest Americans. That’s just an observation full of implication and insinuation. But I’ll leave it at that.
I suppose I arrived at my charitable commitment largely through guilt. I recognized early on, that my good fortune was not due to superior personal character or initiative so much as it was to dumb luck. I was blessed to be born in an advanced society with caring parents. So, I had the advantage of both genetics (winning the “ovarian lottery”) and upbringing. As I looked around at those who did not have these advantages, it became clear to me that I had a moral obligation to direct my resources to help right that balance. […]
As I addressed my charitable purposes, all of this seemed pretty clear: I was only peripherally responsible for my own good fortune; I was morally duty bound to help those left behind by the accident of birth; America’s root principle was equal opportunity but we were far from achieving it. […]
I am entranced by Warren’s and Bill’s visionary appeal to those who have accumulated unconscionable resources, to dedicate at least half of them back to purposes more useful than dynastic perpetuation. My family is very well provided for and they join me in my intention to devote virtually all of my financial resources to the same general charitable purposes I have pursued in life, better informed in specifics by our experience and the experience of others. If enough acolytes follow Bill’s and Warren’s example, then maybe we will more closely approach the ideal of equal opportunity throughout the United States and the world.