The SMH reports today on Bill Gates giving away his fortune rather than bequeathing it to his three kids. That is not news, but the article goes on to say that the Gates foundation has spent $29 billion since its foundation on the immunization of 250 million children, which may have saved as many as 5 million lives.
The Gates Foundation website fact sheet is here. Assuming we can take these facts on face value, the scale of Gates’s philanthropy is amazing. The foundation has already made grants of $23 billion and has remaining assets of $33 billion. It is common for foundations to pay out only 4-5% of their asset value each year so that the foundation can make payments of equal real value in perpetuity. Gates obviously intends to spend his bequest much more quickly than that. I thought that Gates’s plan to give away his fortune was more theoretical than real. But if he really has given away $23 billion to highly effective non for profits, then that is quite something.
The fact sheet also shows that the foundation has only received a fraction of Warren Buffet’s money so far. I presume that the remainder of Buffet’s $50 billion odd of wealth will flow in over time. I say three cheers for Gates and Buffet. Has anyone ever done a comparable amount of good through their munificence? They are the shining face of capitalism. I hope they get the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition.