Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Inequality and charity

I see in the news that J.K. Rowling, the billionaire author of the Harry Potter books, is no longer a billionaire. Why? She gave a very large sum of her money away to charity. It matters not which charities, but the question that comes to mind is this: How many billionaires are there to make such large donations?

This is a valid question because charities, like congressmen, seem to appeal to the people with the most money for the donations. This means, to me anyway, that the wealthiest among us can not only make donations to a charity, they can wield enormous influence over that charity. So while many of us may send $5 or $10 a month to a charity because, really, that's about all we can afford to send, we don't have much say in how that money is used.

A billionaire on the other hand, can send gifts in the millions with strings attached. So if a billionaire cannot find a charity to do what he wants it to do, he can create it. Just like Bill Gates did. What does his foundation do? They do a lot of stuff, mostly in the area of medical research. However, the Wikipedia article on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has documented criticism of the foundation. Such criticisms include maximizing return on investment and using voting rights to influence other companies. That is just one billionaire hard at work to save the world.

So the question in my mind is this: Do we want a world where a small cadre of billionaires dictate terms to the charities we know and love? Or do we want a world where charities must appeal to millions of people for $5 or $10 every month to survive?

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