June 28, 2006

Giving it Away

So Warren Buffett has decided to give away 85% of his fortune, much of it to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Much has been made of this, as he's foregone creating his own foundation on the grounds that the infrastructure and capital expense required to do so would take away from the good his money could do. It's an intriguing idea, and one that shows Buffett's typical lack of vanity. He seems to have little desire to have a bunch of stuff named after him.

This is all interesting, but to me, the most intriguing part is his rationale for not having been much of a philanthropist up until this point. He rightly believes that giving away 2 million (for example) is better than giving away 1 million. He's proven himself to be one of the best in the world at growing his money, so he can ultimately do the most good by trusting himself to raise the money. This has led to his current estimated 44 billion dollar fortune, which he is now starting to distribute. Of course, this isn't a blanket excuse for people to avoid philanthropy, because most of us don't have Buffett's knack for growing money, and because it's all contingent on eventually giving it away. Holding off on philanthropy so you can buy a bigger boat isn't really the same idea.

To close, I'll leave you with my favorite part of it all: During the ceremony announcing all of this, the 75 year old Buffett stated that he thought he should act before he reached the age where he might sign a letter that began "Dear Anna Nicole Smith..." (via Slate)

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