for the greater good

Ran into a flurry of Zuckerberg charity articles and couldn’t resist a drive-by commentary.  High-level social politics, tax law, and whispers of oligarchy?  I am but a moth to the flame.

If you’re not familiar with the baseline here:

  • Zuckerberg and Chan create an LLC where most of their wealth (99% of Facebook shares, currently >$45bil) will be converted into potentially charitable contributions to society, though the legal boundaries on what their money can be used for are pretty lax.  It’s not really clear what they’re planning to focus spending on.  Always a good start.
  • The whole thing is spurred by Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge, an initiative to get the superwealthy to donate the majority of their wealth rather than devoting it to an inheritance.  A surprising amount of billionaires have been on board with this.

It’s hard not to sound like a stale bag of farts in questioning or critiquing a billionaire giving away his fortune.  The ideas here are laudable.  I tend to believe that most people – superwealthy or not – are generally doing what they think makes sense, and even if these actions benefit him indirectly or directly, there has to be some recognition that he could have gone the path of pure wealth optimization.

But the story is not as simple as a billionaire going all-star humanitarian.  There’s 3 major perspectives to consider here, and I’ll follow up with my opinion.

Continue reading for the greater good