Three cheers for Gates and Buffet


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.

8 Responses to "Three cheers for Gates and Buffet"
  1. While $23 billion will go a long way, how can you compare whether the Gates’ have abnormally high levels of philanthropy?
    For example, if their net wealth is, say, $100billion, and they earn $5billion per year income from that wealth, how do we compare to the guy whose net wealth is close to zero, has an income only from labour of say $25,000 per year, but gives away a few hundred dollars per year?
    In wealth terms the second guy is the big giver, in income terms the Gates’ are the most generous. How are such things normally compared? I seem to recall studies showing that low income earners typically give a greater proportion of their incomes to charity. Anyway, good on them.

  2. Buffett has said that the money won’t start to flow until he’s dead. (He is 80 years old.) In the meantime, he’s going to concentrate on making more, so more can be given away later.

  3. They may be great exemplars of philanthropy, but they’re certainly not the “shining face of capitalism.” Neither man has made a productive contribution to the economy remotely near $50bn. That they’ve accrued such wealth speaks to the shortcomings of capitalism.

  4. @Cameron
    The first documented example of the comparison you are trying to make would be under Mark 12:41-44, in a fairly widely published book. There is nothing new under the sun.

  5. Cameron
    I thought of the parable of the Widow in the passage from the Christian Gospels that you refer to, when writing the last paragraph.  That is why I wrote “done a comparable amount of good”  rather than writing  “made a comparable sacrifice”.
    Cheers  Sam Wylie

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