Monday 10 January 2011

Giving Generously

In my last post I was encouraging bankers to think about giving half their bonus to charity , if there is not to be a bonus tax. I was pointing to the example of a wealthy merchant who had founded Dulwich Picture Gallery. An article by Will Hutton in yesterday's Observer pointed to the example of America.

In May, America's two wealthiest citizens, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, arranged three separate dinners with those who occupied the positions directly below them in the US rich list: Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, Oprah Winfrey and the rest.

One result was that Buffett and Gates went public in June with what they called the Giving Pledge, an appeal to the conscience of their fellow billionaires that now was the time to donate half their wealth to solving some of the world's problems. So far, 40 have signed up. Buffett had set the ball rolling by pledging 99% of his $70bn (£45.5bn) fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

You can see how the Giving Pledge is developing at and read letters from, among others, Michael Bloomberg, Paul Allen, Ted Turner and George Lucas. Bloomberg writes: "The reality of great wealth is that you can't spend it and you can't take it with you. For decades, I've been committed to giving away the vast majority of my wealth to causes that I'm passionate about. And so I am enthusiastically taking the Giving Pledge, and nearly all of my net worth will be given away in the years ahead."

Sceptics say charity and aid never transformed societies. Gates and Buffett, though, point to the fact that in a few short years of their targeted health policies they have eradicated polio from all but three countries; they now have their sights on malaria. You can only hope the
Giving Pledge proves contagious. the bankers could set that ball rolling. I hope this gets taken up by the Treasury Select Committee tomorow..

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