The Power of Private Philanthropy

Gates Donations Rival U.N. Health Spending
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spends billions of dollars each year on international health programs, rivaling the total annual budget of the United Nations’ World Health Organization. And I bet the whole thing is managed better too. Government is not always the solution (although it is true that the U.S. government subsidizes this through its tax treatment of charities.) Private U.S. private giving to developing world exceeds $62 billion .

Posted by Jack at November 4, 2005 4:09 PM
Comment #90599

Maybe it would be more accurate to compare donations as a percentage of total wealth. What is the average wealth of the average American and what percentage of wealth does he give to charity.

If I who has $100 gives $50 to charity, does this mean Bill Gates who gives $100 out of his $81,000,000,000 is more generous?

Posted by: Aldous at November 4, 2005 7:29 PM
Comment #90600

No Aldous, it just means the billions Bill Gates has earned and donated to charity makes a difference to the world, the $100 you’ve earned, well you just ought to keep it

Posted by: sadie at November 4, 2005 7:33 PM
Comment #90609


This is one very strange week. First I agree with Ron Brown about something. Now with you.


If you gave 1/2 of all your assets to charity, you would be very generous indeed. But what would you do next year?

Posted by: Dave at November 4, 2005 8:08 PM
Comment #90610

Both the percentages and the absolute amount are important when assessing anything. In this case, I think the sheer volume of Gate’s contribution makes it important. Which would you rather have, 10% of Gate’s money or 100% of yours?

The point is not that Bill Gates is generous, although he is. The point is that he is doing a lot of good and that government action is not always the most appropriate or effective.

But Aldous begs another question. If you work hard and make a lot of money, you have the capacity to do a lot more good than if you don’t.

Posted by: Jack at November 4, 2005 8:13 PM
Comment #90621


While I applaud the Gates’s effort, I would wonder where the other philanthropists were.

All I had to do was look.

This is a list of the top 50 (by donations) for 2004;
(this is a pdf page)

Posted by: Rocky at November 4, 2005 8:51 PM
Comment #90622


Thanks. You also managed to square Aldous, who asked about percentage giving. Gates give 58% of his net worth, according to the table.

Posted by: Jack at November 4, 2005 9:00 PM
Comment #90626

Bill Gates gives $28 billion to charity, and Aldous takes a negative viewpoint on it. How absolutely freaking typical.

Leave it to Aldous to find the everpresent dark cloud behind any silver lining.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at November 4, 2005 9:21 PM
Comment #90630

It seems to me that the top 1% that the Liberials want to punish for being rich, are the ones giving the most to charity.
Most people are fairly generous. Just look at the stagering amounts of money the American public has given to disaster relief just this year. And not just in the United States.
On the news this week they gave the amount of money that’s been given. I don’t recall the amount right off. Maybe someone else can.

Posted by: Ron Brown at November 4, 2005 9:34 PM
Comment #90648

just looked at the list and the numbers are slightly misleading, that 58% is not of how much he had, but rather of how much is left. In other words he actually gave about 28 billion out of 76 billion, closer to 33% of his net worth. Still a huge chunk and a generous deed though!

Posted by: danny at November 5, 2005 1:16 AM
Comment #90650

How much do YOU give?
You are on this site all the time ‘preaching’ to the rest of us.
Prove that you do ANYTHING to help those that are less fortunate than you.
Running your mouth does NOT count.

Posted by: bugcrazy at November 5, 2005 2:03 AM
Comment #90667

I have noticed Bill Gates’ philanthropy for some time, and I applaud it. (His business practices are another matter.) I particularly appreciate that he has given money to fight diseases common in the Third World. Federal money tends to be focused more towards chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease, that are common in affluent countries like ours.

In terms of policy, I do fault the GOP for the eliminating the estate tax. People have given a lot of money to charity to avoid the estate tax.

Posted by: Woody Mena at November 5, 2005 9:51 AM
Comment #90668


You make a good point about taxes. Although I don’t think people give away money only to avoid taxes. Inheritance taxes cause we some cognitive dissonance. I think it is a good thing to tax Paris Hilton, but I don’t like the idea of the government just confiscating people’s money and I am not sure where to draw the line. I don’t think that an estate of less than a million should be taxed (a million is not what it used to be). A high tax also encourages wasteful behavior. If you know that the government will get your money, you have incentive to piss it away before you take the road to glory.

On a fine point, the U.S. tax system is essentially how we determine much of our government run social and cultural policy. The Euros have higher taxes and pay for such things directly. They have few tax exemptions for charity compared to the U.S. We subsidize the arts and society through our tax exemptions. It puts the choices in the hands of individuals instead of bureaucrats. Private enterprise giving is the big factor that most people don’t understand about us. It is one reason why life is good in the U.S. even though we don’t support European style welfare states.

Posted by: Jack at November 5, 2005 10:17 AM
Comment #90676

When you donate your own money to the cause you want to support its called philanthropy. When you siphon the taxes i pay to support the causes you want, its called theft.

Posted by: Lowell at November 5, 2005 11:58 AM
Comment #90680

When you donate your own money to the cause you want to support its called philanthropy. When you siphon the taxes i pay to support the causes you want, its called theft.

Posted by: Lowell at November 5, 2005 11:58 AM

I 100% AGREE!!!!!

Posted by: Ron Brown at November 5, 2005 12:21 PM
Comment #90700

Oh, I get it! Democratic governments that tax their citizens are stealing. Yes, that makes sense. Let’s sit around in our little circle and tell each other this until it seems true. Then we’ll develop our whole political philosophy around that idea and people like Jack will provide little examples of how generous rich people are and how we can just get along without taxes. Then we’ll end up with people like Bush and Cheney running things. And it’s going so well for the country, don’t you think?

Posted by: Mental Wimp at November 5, 2005 3:00 PM
Comment #90704

That paragraph goes right along with your name - Mental Wimp.

Posted by: Indy Evans at November 5, 2005 3:28 PM
Comment #90706

Mental Wimp,

you wrote:

“…people like Jack will provide little examples of how generous rich people are and how we can just get along without taxes.”

Some people claim their subsidies directly; but hitting old ladies over the head isn’t right…and fortunately, it still is illegal too.

Posted by: John Slevin at November 5, 2005 3:45 PM
Comment #90707

If you look up the definition of theft in the dictionary, I think it pretty much says it all.

Posted by: Lowell at November 5, 2005 3:53 PM
Comment #90712

Mental Wimp
Why should my tax money go to support causes I don’t agree with? I’ll bet you don’t want your tax money supporting a cause that I like.
Taxes are for running this counrty. Not for causes.
When tax money is given to support enviromental groups, corporations, social programs that create dependency, religious groups,private charities, ans such, IT IS THEFT.
It’s this kind of misuse of OUR taxes that helps to create deficits.

Posted by: Ron Brown at November 5, 2005 4:15 PM
Comment #90713

I’ll bet you don’t want your tax money supporting a cause that I like.

That should be :
I’ll bet you don’t want your tax money supporting causes that you don’t like.

Posted by: Ron Brown at November 5, 2005 4:18 PM
Comment #90718

There’s a classic rock song some of you may know which includes the lyrics: “tax the rich, feed the poor, ‘till there are, rich no more.”

I always took this as a subconscious admission by the far left that raising taxes would just destroy wealth without actually solving the problem of poverty. (note that it says “rich no more” and not “poor no more”)

At the same time, the notion that philanthropy alone is sufficient to take care of society’s weakest members is ludicrous.

Sorry Ron, but how our tax dollars are spent should not be a popularity contest. You may be ok with a pseudo Darwinian survival of the fittest mentality, but I’d prefer to know that our government is first: doing all it can to encourage and facilitate private philanthropy and 2nd, using tax dollars to help fill in gaps to insure that segments of our population are not left behind. The key is finding the appropriate balance.

Posted by: Adverbal at November 5, 2005 5:08 PM
Comment #90722

Private philanthropy alone will to be sufficient in a working society. BUT there is the corollary that public support (government) is also not sufficient.


Adverbial has a point in this particular case. The tax break for philanthropy is a good small d democratic way to handle the problem of government support in a diverse society that believes in a market. It does subsidize giving. But the person making the gift also has to put up the bulk of the donation.

The private sector can manage almost anything better than the public sector. In effect, we Americans get a better deal because we can have our social programs run by entrepreneurs like Bill Gates. Government can’t attract or hold this type of talent.

Posted by: Jack at November 5, 2005 6:10 PM
Comment #90749

My guess is that your tax money wouldn’t pay for much of Cheney’s salary, not to mention the war or much of anything else. Most Americans get a lot more than they pay in.

Posted by: Jack at November 5, 2005 11:54 PM
Comment #90852

Jack, I’m one of those people who actually got a tax break from chimpco. Yet, I still think it’s more important that he lied to start a war then decided to make money off of it.

Posted by: Dave at November 6, 2005 10:52 PM
Comment #90859

Bush didn’t lie. I wrote an article quoting It is in the archives under “Bush Lied - Not”. If Bush lied, so did Bill Clinton, who read all the intelligence until 2001 and was in the loop after. So did all those Dems on the intelligence committee who saw all the same intelligence. John Kerry was on the intelligence committee long before Bush was elected, of example. Did he lie too, or was he so stupid that he could be duped in his own specialty?

Re taxes

If you paid taxes at all, you saved money under the Bush plan. Everybody who paid taxes paid less. Of course, the top 10% pay almost all the Federal tax, so it was relatively more important to them.

BTW - I don’t pay much in taxes either, so I don’t mean disrespect for you. It is just that those of us (most Americans) who don’t pay much in taxes in the first place can’t by definition save much. It is just a tautology.

Posted by: Jack at November 7, 2005 12:12 AM
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