Is charitable giving distorting Americans' view of the public good? Kimberly Dennis thinks it might be.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett announced this month that 40 of America's richest people have agreed to sign a "Giving Pledge" to donate at least half of their wealth to charity. With a collective net worth said to total $230 billion, that promise translates to at least $115 billion.
It's an impressive number. Yet some-including Messrs. Gates and Buffett-say it isn't enough. Perhaps it's actually too much: the wealthy may help humanity more as businessmen and women than as philanthropists.
What are the chances, after all, that the two forces behind the Giving Pledge will contribute anywhere near as much to the betterment of society through their charity as they have through their business pursuits? In building Microsoft, Bill Gates changed the way the world creates and shares knowledge. Warren Buffett's investments have birthed and grown innumerable profitable enterprises, making capital markets work more efficiently and enriching many in the process.
Do we have a distorted view of charity and the public good, or should the wealthiest Americans feel obligated to "give back"?