March 28, 2015

The Great Illusion

News popped out yesterday of the magnanimous act of Apple CEO Tim Cook to pledge via The Giving Pledge most of his wealth to charity before he dies.
He is joining the ranks of many other famous billionaires who joined Bill Gates in pledging their fortunes to charity.
A most honourable commitment indeed and worth massive advertisement and praise all over the media.
When though I try and dig into details of how this money is used and with whom; I am starting to feel more and more dubious about their good intentions.
I am suspecting is just another publicity stunt to fool public opinion out of the real issue.

Let's go first to The Giving Pledge website to understand better how all this works.

Below are the FAQ from the website:

What is the Giving Pledge?

The Giving Pledge is an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their will.

Why go public with a pledge?

The goal is to talk about giving in an open way and create an atmosphere that can draw more people into philanthropy.
How does the Giving Pledge work?

Each family or individual who chooses to pledge will make this statement publicly, along with a statement explaining their decision to pledge.
At an annual event, those who take the pledge will come together to share ideas and learn from each other.
Throughout the year, there are opportunities for conversations that go deeper on the specific topics of interest to the group.

What will people pledge to?

The pledge does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations. The pledge asks only that the individual give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes or charitable organizations either during their lifetime or in their will.
The pledge does not solicit support for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or any other specific cause or organization. The pledge encourages signatories to find their own unique ways to give that inspire them personally and benefit society.

Will the Giving Pledge grant money to organizations?

Not directly. Each person who pledges makes an individual decision about which particular causes or organizations they wish to support.

How much should people give?

Each family will decide that for themselves. The pledge asks for a commitment of a majority of their wealth. Many have and will continue to exceed it.

Once someone pledges, how will you make sure they follow through?

The pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract.

How did the idea come about?

The idea of the Giving Pledge came from the ideas and input generated in many great conversations that Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett had with other philanthropists in the U.S. and abroad.

How long will the pledge last?

Our hope is that the effort will continue for generations to come.


So to recap:
1) I commit to give half of my fortune to an unidentified charity of my choice either during my life or in my will.
2) I advertise immediately my decision extensively on the media and all over the world, reaping the benefits immediately of extensive PR coverage and visibility and extra aura coming with it.
3) I do not have to pool money neither now or in the future or support a specific cause I can choose with calm before my death or even in my will to whom or what give my money.
4) I don't have to declare to anyone how much I have given and to whom, a simple letter of intent at start will suffice to show up among those kind souls.
4) If I change my mind none will come after me since it is not a legal contract.
5) what if I decide to give my money to a foundation of mine with a charitable charter and keep the money in the family?
6) there is no auditing or monitoring or tracking of what is given to whom because these guys are billionaires and we know they are cool and if they say something they will keep their promise (who knows when or how) but hey we do not want to put pressure on them, we ungrateful peasants...

The real issue is that we live in an unjust system where few privileged (in the Great Depression they were called Robber Barons) are concentrating in their hands a disproportionate amount of power and money. 
A real philanthropist would certainly relinquish its wealth to balance the system but maybe rather than getting a disproportionately high salary in the beginning could decide to spread his stellar payslip across the spectrum to benefit the community. There should be limits to how much power a single person can accumulate.
We are not discussing the real issue that a productive and fair society is a society which grant to each citizen equal opportunities and means to live a dignified life regardless of the origin allowing for maximum social mobility.
The best should be able to develop their skills regardless if they have money to get an higher education or not.
How many talents are being wasted just because they do not have the way to develop themselves, how much faster would be our technological and social development if everyone is enacting his/her full potential.
In a fair society The Giving Pledge and these surrogates of a welfare state would not exist, it is not up to privileged billionaires to decide who gets what, it is a right of every citizen to be given equal opportunities by his own country; to progress by its own means and not through someone else charity.

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