For as long as I can remember I have heard or seen the indicators of great wealth. For as long as I can remember I have felt some resentment towards those who have great wealth. I saw them as greedy and uncaring bowing down to the great Satan–money. I believed them to be snobbish and aloof–above most of us and not subject to the same rules.
So I ask: Is it OK for so few to control so much of the wealth in the world? The deciding factor for me is what did they have to do to make it or to acquire it? If they stole it, cheated people out of their life savings, came into their money through violence and threats then yes there is definitely something wrong with that. But if they earned it by being smart, by taking risks, by paying attention to those who have done well and done it legitimately then good for them.
Bernie Sanders, a Democratic candidate for president, has targeted the wealthy saying there are too few controlling too much money and they should give some of it back. We must be careful that we don’t penalize those who made their fortunes honestly otherwise why be industrious, innovative and creative? Are these not the basic characteristics of capitalism? Is this not part of the free world dream?
Obviously I have no way of knowing how many of you watched 60 minutes on Sunday evening but the program turned my view on the wealthy around 180 degrees. Do I now favour those who acquire their wealth by means other than by honest business dealings and decisions? No-not at all. Actually it solidified my feelings and thoughts about wealth–especially enormous wealth. A money manager once told me that anyone can make a million dollars IF they are willing to do what it takes to get it. In other words are you prepared to spend 80 hours a week pursuing your fortune? How long are you willing to continue your efforts? Are you willing to give up your family for a period of time? And so on.
The 60 Minutes program was about a very special group of billionaires–that’s with a ‘B’. Among the folks who are members of this group are names like: Bill and Melinda Gates (Microsoft),Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), Arthur Blank (Co-Founder of Home Depot), Bill Ackman (Hedge Fund Manager), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Elon Musk (PayPal and SpaceX), Richard Branson (Virgin Group–over 400 companies), Tim Cook (CEO of Apple Inc.) Sara Blakely (Founder of Spanx-Intimate Apparel), Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (Biocon), David Rockefeller (Banker and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank), Azim Premji (Indian Business Tycoon and Chairman of Wipro Limited-Outsourcer), Hasso Plattner (Co-founder of SAP AG Software), George Lucas (American Filmaker-Founder of Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises).
These are a few of the 142 members of a group who have agreed to honour a non-contractual pledge they made to each other to give away at least half of their particular fortune by the time they pass away. So, in the case of Bill and Melinda Gates, who are reputed to have amassed a fortune of 76 billion dollars they are agreeing to give at least 38 billion of it to charities and foundations (their own included) that forwards the causes of the world–education, health care, research for better medicines and vaccines, brain injury, providing medication to those who don’t have access to them, developing alternative energy sources, global warming and new ways of dealing with poverty and hunger. It is hard to judge but that suggests hundreds of billions of dollars that could be earmarked for global programs that could have a positive bearing on the development of many third world countries who are having difficulty securing or creating any kind of contribution to their own well being. They could actually become self sufficient with a bit of support from folks who don’t want anything from them in return.
If you are interested in the whole list of members please click on the underlined text.
There are, of course, a number of detractors and critics who suggest it it just another tax haven or a way of hiding or protecting their own vast fortunes mostly in their foundations and pet charities. Are we so cynical and so jaded that we have to be critical of those who might want to actually do something good for people who would otherwise NEVER have an opportunity to experience any kind of stability. Do we deny people an opportunity to have the very basics of fresh water and decent food to eat every day? Do we take away any chance for third and second world citizens to have a semblance of a decent life for their children and their families. It has been proven and determined that societies which are even minimally educated tend to be more stable politically, socially and democratically. They also tend to require much less foreign aid to survive.
I have decided to see some of the world’s wealthiest people as those willing to reach out and do what many governments are reluctant to do and that is give up their leverage over people who may not have any choice. Isn’t that an interesting way of helping to level out the playing field so that more could do better. All that without a shot fired in the process–amazing. I guess having money ain’t so bad after all.
Anyways, that’s how I see it. All the best–Jim
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