(Last Updated On: February 3, 2015)
One of the hottest issues in Western economics is ‘Wealth concentration’. Nowadays, the mean household income of America’s ‘one percent’ is over 75 times that of the bottom 40th percentile. That the really rich garner both resentment and attention from us is lowly subservients is no new development, however, it has never happened for the numbers to be so damning: 20% of Americans nowadays own 89% of the country’s wealth.
Do the wealthy tend to use their money, power and influence for good, or does man inherently need rules like salary caps and taxes to avoid the power from corrupting the society? Whatever you may have argued in PoliSci 101, it look like, through observation, that money has a potential and powerful corruption persuasion. Not even the most charitable billionaires can resist needlessly splurge on costly vehicles, real estate, or jet flights par-convenience, and an wealthy economy expects no less. However, in the last couple of years there has been one interesting development going in the opposite direction: a couple of celebs are signing up to give away their fortunes voluntarily.
The Giving Pledge campaign made by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett invites the super powerful and rich to give away at least half of their wealth to charitable causes. It’s not legally binding, however, it is a moral and a really public promise that billions of your dollar will help needier hands when you die, at the very latest. Since 2010, it has become fashionable enough to attain 122 signees as of last year – almost 10% of the billionaires in the world.
Sadly, the pledge does not say anything about the kinds of donations and how much impact they will have, not to mention loopholes that allow you to donate your own family-controlled organizations. This type of obscurity lad late hardball hedge fund titan Robert W. Wilson to label it as no more than a PR scheme. But even if it is just the latest yacht club in sheep’s clothing, at least it aids us in putting some faces to the action and suggests some accountability for wealth inequality. Listed below are 10 prominent billionaires who have made the high-profile pledge to give away more than half of their billions.
10. Paul Allen
In 1983, Paul renounced his post with Microsoft after finding out he had the Hogkin’s disease. In 2010, after the Giving Pledge had been launched for a month, the mogul signed up to share over half of his approximately $16.2 billion fortune. Famous for his luxury spending which includes one of the largest private yacht (named Octopus) found in the world, Captain Kirk’s chair on the Starship Enterprise, and the Seattle Seahawk football team. Allen vowed in public that he would leave the majority of his estate to charity causes emphasising on non profit scientific research. He will probably stay with Kirk’s chair.
9. Michael Bloomberg
While he was serving as Mayor of the New York City, the business magnate took a salary of $1 a year (that is rich people’s way of reminding themselves – and us – how much money they have). $34 billion and million in donations to education and nonprofits is standing behind Michael Bloomberg’s commitment to the Giving Pledge. He has made his belief in giving it all away known publicly very well, summed up with an outstanding quote “the best financial planning ends with bouncing the check to the undertaker.” His two daughters might see his generosity as sobering.
8. Warren Buffett
In spite of a net worth of $58.5 billion, Warren Buffett lives in the same Ohama home purchased in 1958 for $31,500. He has been getting the same base salary of $100,000 for the past 25 years coming from his multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, and he is famous to malign luxury cars and new technology. The life of Buffet of careful frugality underscores the very business philosophy that allows him to blow his frugality in billions. He has pledged to give away 99% of his wealth by the time his will is read, Gates Foundation will receive 83% of his wealth. It;s only fitting, since he spearheaded the Pledge.
7. Pierre Omidyar
The founder of eBay has some enlightening things to talk about becoming, in his words “ridiculous rich” very fast. As he describes it, his unexpected ability to purchase “not only one expensive car” but “all of them” made him to overcome the temptations of material splurging. This explains partly his creating of the Omidyar Network in 2004 – what some see as venture charity – which has committed more than $357 million and counting to other charitable initiatives. Omidyar immediately signed the Giving Pledge in 2010, which came after almost ten years after his own personally stated commitment to give away a large portion of his wealth.
6. George Lucas
Once upon a time, the creator of Star Wars was paid by Disney more than $4 billion for his company Lucas Films. However, the film tycoon already has made a pledge to share most of it to improve education. By George Lucas signing to the Giving Pledge, it details an initiative to change education from “an assembly line” into fostering experiences in expression and arts. Given his donations of $175-150 million which are used to expand the film school at his alma mater alone, we can see that he is really serious about this.
5. David Rockefeller
David Rockefeller’s support of the Giving Pledge almost goes without saying. Heading a five-generation lineage of large wealth and charity, his total personal charity donations in 2006, are over $900 million, according to the New York Times. There is $100 million to Harvard University, $100 million to the Museum of Modern Art, $100 million to the Rockefeller University – the list keeps going. David Rockefeller might be the first billionaire on the list to fulfill his pledge, currently at 99 years old, and with $2.8 billion estate, that would be a charity landmark.
4. Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg became 30 this year, however, he will always remain the youngest billionaire nerds in our hearts. The only thing that Zuckerberg did faster than make a quick $33.1 billion was find his charity spirit: as an early signer of the Giving Pledge, he has donated 18 million Facebook shares (500 million) to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation since he signed the pledge, and also $100 million to Startup: Education to improve Newark schools. However, he still has a long way to go. What will be the worth of half of his fortune in fifty years?
3. Ted Turner
While he has gained his billions by founding media outlets, for instance, TBS or CNN, Ted Turner joked once about his donations leaving him at “the edge of poverty”. Sadly for his children, he also (jokingly?) plans to keep just enough wealth to take care of his funeral when he passes away. What will surely help with that is making the Giving Pledge. He is nowadays valued at approximately $2.2 billion, but the real fruits of his fortune are apart from his business dealings. The UN’s public charity was literally made because of Turner’s $1 billion. He now serves as Chairman of the charity.
2. Richard Branson
the Virgin Group founder took the Pledge just one year ago with a promise to aid in innovation and entrepreneurism. $5 billion is approximately the value of Branson’s net worth, which makes him the sixth richest UK citizen as said by Forbes. However, he is known less for his lump sum charity than for his general activism, round-the-world record attempts and two private Caribbean islands. So, a promise to give away at least half of his fortunes looks to be uncharted territory for this adventurous tycoon.
1. Bill Gates
To a lot of us, Bill Gates will always be ‘the richest man in the world’, just like Zuckerberg will always be that young billionaire who gave us technology allowing us to be super-social. He officially held the title from 1995-2009, and in case you are wondering he is only the second wealthiest man since this September. But does it really matter at this point? Bill Gates’ net worth is said to be about $81 billion nowadays, and since the making to the wealthiest charity in the world (whatever that means), the mechanics of Gates owning his wealth and sharing it away are confusing at best. What we know for sure is that Bill and Melinda Gates co-founded the Giving Pledge and have promised in public to donate 95% of their fortune. We can only hope that it will end up in the right places.