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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Money, good deeds can go hand in hand”

    “”Money is greed.”” “”Money is the root of all evil.”” “”Money corrupts.””

    Apparently, people who say these things have never heard of people like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, the two wealthiest men in the world.

    The two richest people in the world would seemingly stand for knocking over the little guy to make a buck. For plundering world resources in the name of capitalism. For exploiting labor and custom. Or, at least according to some of the stereotypes of the uber-rich.

    Instead, Buffett and Gates together are making a huge impact on philanthropy. Gates had already donated some $30 million to his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation when Buffett pledged another $30 billion in June. The pair’s donations together exceed the gross domestic product of oil-rich Kazakhstan. Nice!

    Gates’ foundation, which will distribute the hoard, has been praised for its efficiency and businesslike approach to giving. The foundation fully expects to have a big effect in eliminating some of the world’s most crippling diseases. Bill Gates announced in June that he will be leaving Microsoft next year to work with the foundation.

    This year, the “”Forbes 400″” — the list of the world’s 400 richest people — is out and the “”Slate 60″” — the list of the 60 biggest philanthropic donors — is in.

    Indeed, giving by the uber-rich has risen steadily. The “”Slate 60″”‘ list, created in 1996 after a comment by Ted Turner to Maureen Dowd that competition in giving would encourage more to give, is increasingly hard to crack.

    And it makes sense. Starry-eyed UA graduates can imagine what they would do with increasing amounts of money. At $1 million, a huge house is available. At $5 million, maybe a Ferrari and a yacht. The big sign that you’re a big-timer, the one luxury that Warren Buffett actually indulges in, is a private jet. But after that, there isn’t much left to consume.

    People like Richard Branson may spend their fortunes getting to space and traveling around the world in a hot-air balloon, but for most of the super rich, anything more than $500 million is unspendable.

    Giving away a fortune not only feels better, but it earns a better reputation for the giver. Major philanthropy is especially trendy with young members of the elite. Pierre Omidyar, of eBay fortune, has quickly become one of the world’s biggest donors. Barely months after they became billionaires from Google, Sergei Brinn and Larry Page formed a foundation and promised to spend part of the fortune on philanthropy.

    With the recent release of income data showing that inequality is potentially increasing in the U.S., the blogosphere is abuzz with talk about the super-rich and how their income has grown disproportionately. And when talking about the very wealthy, but not super-wealthy, they may have a point. When someone with $10 million gets an extra $5 million, it’s probably not going to charity. But at the very top, a lot of it often ends up being donated. Should we actually be hoping that this part of inequality increases?

    In fact, some of the richest are becoming role models not just for their business acumen. Buffett, for example, is not just the greatest investor who ever lived. He is also a folk philosopher, and his decision to give his entire 40 percent stake in Berkshire Hathaway to charity is a powerful example of his belief against inherited riches.

    UA students often look up to certain people as among the greatest in our world. Nelson Mandela, Bono, Muhammad Yunus, the Dalai Lama. These are inspirations who make a difference in our world and who advance humanitarian causes against all odds.

    Buffett and Gates belong on that list. The Gates Foundation is really just getting started. It’s attacking diseases such as AIDS and malaria, and over the next, say, 50 years should show major accomplishments. When we are in our elderly years and look back at who alive today had the biggest positive impact, it will become clear that these men’s biggest accomplishments were not in the business world.

    Ryan Johnson is a senior majoring in economics and international studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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