This bug makes it look like Mark Zuckerberg quit Facebook

4 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 criticisms of billionaire mega-philanthropy, debunked.

Even though the majority of commentators have been positive, a significant proportion of people have reacted with anger or even condemnation to the news this week that the first couple of social media will be donating 99% of their Facebook shares (some $45 billion) to a new charitable initiative. Some commenters suggest donating money on such a large scale is just a tax dodge that will make Zuckerberg and Chan richer than he would have been otherwise.

While Zuckerberg will get a tax reduction because he is giving away 99% of his money he will still be giving away close to 99% of his after-tax income as well. There’s a legitimate question of whether all donations to non-profits should be tax deductible in this way, but that has nothing to do with the philanthropist. The couple are using a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) as the vehicle for their donation, in order, it seems to retain more control over the disbursement of funds.

While the feature was first accessible to some in September, it’s not a stretch to presume Zuckerberg had access a month earlier, including the option to add life events. He, of course, started work on the social network before then, but February 4, 2004 is the day the service officially launched, and so that’s what Zuckerberg set for his life event. As long as a given Facebook user has his work status published on Facebook, you can mess with it — but keep in mind that only backdated life events will get you a significantly different result. Indeed, insofar as there are 20 times as many businesses as public charities, philanthropists would be unnecessarily straightjacketing themselves by pledging to only donate money to charities. Others say that by giving all their resources to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (another example would be the Bill and Gates Foundation), the couple is presuming to know how to better allocate the money than the governments that exist to represent the needs and aspirations of the general public.

One key reason here is that the couple, like Bill and Melinda Gates, appear likely to allocate a large fraction of their wealth to people in extreme poverty, those scraping by on less than $2 a day. Even if they somehow were able to allow the entire world to decide where the $45 billion were to go, this still wouldn’t solve the problem, because it wouldn’t give a voice to future generations (which they explicitly acknowledge the importance of).

Perhaps the ultimate democratic solution for a philanthropist is to simply transfer case to the poorest people in the world, so that they can use the money as they see fit. But, given that almost no one with comparable amounts of wealth donates as much as they do, surely we want to incentivize behavior like theirs rather than condemn it?

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