I get the desire to solve the world's ills, of society's shortcomings, of essentially fixing the thousands of years of evolutionary programming to craft a utopia. What sane person would sit down and say "You know, when I die, I want to leave the world a chaotic fireball of pain and suffering" in all seriousness? Maybe I'm significantly jaded, but I hope I'm not the only one who finds such a letter a little bit narcissitic, brought to you by the originator of one of the most narcissitic platforms of the modern era, and hosted on that very platform, naturally.
>Our generation grew up in classrooms where we all learned the same things at the same pace regardless of our interests or needs.
This isn't true at all. "Our" generation grew up with having to work to acquire knowledge. To spend time in the library. To sit down and read. To think. It took time, effort, opportunity, and personal investment - so much of which is no longer a priority now.
>The internet is so important that for every 10 people who gain internet access, about one person is lifted out of poverty and about one new job is created.
Citation needed. Like, really.
Most everyday Joes might not have the means to change the world but it is certain that when turn into billionaire, they rarely pledge the quasi-totality of their fortune to improve the well being of others.
If this is narcissistic, just let it be and be appreciate that for once, a great deal of money will be put to good use. The world is full of Koch Brothers, Saudi princes and European heirs to prove that most billionaires are more concerned about evading taxes rather than giving back.
Also rest assured that Facebook also "evades taxes" in the same way that the Koch brothers do, that is by taking advantage of the US Tax Code in a legal way. And none of us have any idea what the Koch Brothers have in their wills and have not publicly announced.
Please be serious. This comparison is laughable, the ≈ $300M listed on his foundation is literally 0.7% of his net worth.
(Throughout history in many cultures, people gain status by ostentatious gifts of wealth. Of course, that means you have to tell everyone of your benevolence. And as everyone knows, Koch uses his wealth — and shows like this — to wield enormous influence in politics.)
Not that hard. Social justice advocates increasingly view support of free speech as equivalent to defense of racism/sexism/homophobia/etc.
Also, the idea of having Facebook at the cost of giving up your privacy to this behemoth, and more importantly, at the cost of this company exploiting your cognitive biases to get you to buy things hardly seems conducive to a spirit of bettering the world.
Judge Learned Hand (a real person's name) wrote, "Any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes."
I agree wholeheartedly.
I imagine that were I in their shoes, I'd be fairly confident that I could do more good for the world by private philanthropy, directed to causes that I felt compelling, than by fueling general government spending/avarice around the world.
I think that is beside the point. These companies are violating the spirit of law, not the letter of the law, when they avoid taxes. Take for example, the recent Pfizer/Allergen merger which happened merely for tax-avoidance reasons. It's legal, but it's totally uncalled for and it's clear to see why: a lot of what Pfizer stands on is from NIH-funded research, it's from us the tax-payers. Pfizer should have played fair by paying back, so NIH can fund even more studies, so that more people are employed, so that academia has more breathing room, etc.
The Internal Revenue Service (of the US) writes:
Avoidance of taxes is not a criminal offense. Any attempt to reduce,
avoid, minimize, or alleviate taxes by legitimate means is permissible.
The distinction between evasion and avoidance is fine yet definite. One
who avoids tax does not conceal or misrepresent. He shapes events to
reduce or eliminate tax liability and upon the happening of the events,
makes a complete disclosure. Evasion, on the other hand, involves
deceit, subterfuge, camouflage, concealment, some attempt to color or
obscure events, or making things seem other than what they are.
Did this Dutch company purchase product/services from this Irish company?
Did these two companies merge and the surviving company was the non-US company?
Did this executive receive stock options on such-and-such date?
Those are all relatively easy questions of fact.
Should the surviving entity of the merger have been the US company? (According to whom? Or on what basis? To what end? Which benefits the investors the most? What did the shareholders vote to do with their company? Why should someone else judge that what they did was "legal but improper"?)
The real issue is simply that the US is relatively uncompetitive as a corporate domicile (on a rates and particularly on a "worldwide income basis") Attempts to patch the system without addressing this root issue are unlikely to succeed in a clean and sustainable fashion, IMO.
Most common tax avoidance strategies are possible due to very deliberate policies in each of the relevant jurisdictions. Its fine to claim that there is something wrong with the laws in question, but I haven't been able to identify one that strategies like the "double-dutch" violate the spirit of.
I don't think this sort of thing is about "giving back" however. I think it's something more ambitious than that: to "do something", do something transformative for the future.
Though Zuck's manifesto isn't well thought out yet, I'm stoked that he's committed to doing something with that $45B. Because hoarding up billions of dollars into family dynasties is pretty much doing nothing.
Well, his money isn't stuffed under sofa cushions, so it would bankers choosing what to invest in, but your point still stands. ;)
> If this is narcissistic, just let it be and be appreciate that for once, a great deal of money will be put to good use. The world is full of Koch Brothers, Saudi princes and European heirs to prove that most billionaires are more concerned about evading taxes rather than giving back.
I'm not so sure that's true. The ultra-rich actually donate a huge amount of money. Just last July a Saudi Prince announced he was donating over $30 billion to "philanthropic causes". And back in 2012 a bunch of them pledged to give away "half their wealth."
And those are just a couple of the bigger examples I found in 2 minutes of web search.
Also, I've never heard of anybody volunteering to pay more taxes. Everybody tries to pay less, so it's silly to fault the rich for doing it just because they're saving more in absolute terms.
Link 1: http://fortune.com/2015/07/01/saudi-prince-alwaleed-donation...
Link 2: http://www.christianpost.com/news/over-125-philanthropist-bi...
How hard is it, really, to give away 99% when you're still left with enough to comfortably sustain 5+ lifetimes? Bill Gates said it well here: http://imgur.com/gallery/YDuoHdr
That said, I hope that if I ever get into a position like that, I too will be able to look beyond my personal greed and desire to increase the high score.
Are you an American? Well sir, your butt is full and you're keeping it all to yourself.
Stolen metaphors aside, you're in the 1% of the world and you can actually make a difference.
"How hard is it?" You tell me.
Quite a few Americans live payday to payday. Some work many part time jobs to make ends meet. Do they in absolute dollar terms make more than someone in Africa? Yeah they do. Does it help them if they still can't pay rent? Is that supposed to make them feel better that they make more dollars per month than someone in Burkina Faso?
What do you suggest that they somehow go live in Africa, and commute to US, then share the extra wealth for the betterment of mankind.
> "How hard is it?" You tell me.
Pretty darn hard.
Here is some sauce, because someone will ask for it anyway:
"Mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it."
But at any rate, you completely misunderstood the parent's comment, which alludes to the fact that any American with enough disposable income to be browsing HN is in a rarified stratum of wealth globally, and has plenty of opportunity to donate it to the less fortunate.
Nope. Born in Yugoslavia (communist/socialist), raised in Slovenia (ex-socialist), now in the US for ~8 months. Don't even have my status fully resolved yet.
Right now I can barely keep up with rent and building some savings. At current rate it will take me 46,875 years to save up as much as Zuck will have left over after the 99%.
Okay, top 5%. (*I'm not an American, though I too have moved here.)
> Next question?
Europe has 10%, and Slovenia and the ex-Yugoslav countries are not known for their wealth.
There are people in America who are within the top 1% of global wealth but struggle to feed themselves, or to keep themselves healthy, or to shelter themselves, etc.
> but struggle to feed themselves
Wealth means assets. If you can't feed yourself you do not have assets and therefore you don't have wealth.
There is extreme lack of poverty in the U.S. (not complete, and compared to all countries). There is no reason for anyone to go without food.
I'm not sure which US you're referring to but it's not one I recognise. There is massive inequality in the US that I know and the results of that are visible everywhere that I visited. Homeless people abound like nowhere else in the developed western world that I've been to (Europe, Australia) and there is a real edge of desperation to the countless number of working poor. For example, in my experience, money is a topic of conversation that pops up way more frequently in the US than elsewhere. If it's not in the context of income (usually being too low) then it's about prices and taxes (usually being too high). Americans seem to think about these things A LOT. Also, looking around, it seems to me like everyone is always hustling for the next dollar. It's sufficiently weird and alien to me that I find it remarkable.
I'm from an African country and with that perspective I stand by this phrase:
> There is extreme lack of poverty in the U.S. There is no reason for anyone to go without food.
Name one area in the U.S. where a homeless person cannot get a meal.
My claim is simple. The U.S. is the most prosperous place on the planet, the inequality doesn't touch at least a hundred other countries. Again, inequality isn't necessarily an indicator of poverty.
The comparisons you make are on absolute terms but the reality is more nuanced. There are almost 47 million people living in poverty in the US  and something like 38% of the population live paycheque-to-paycheque (up from 31% in the late 90s) . Even if most of those people are food-secure (something like 90% of Americans in poverty are) those numbers should still be pretty alarming. Just because the average American has it much better than the average African doesn't mean their situation is necessarily very good.
[the following is copied from previous comments I've made on this subject]
Americans below the poverty line in 2009 are more likely to have things like complete kitchens, complete plumbing, automobiles, air conditioning, and dishwashers than Americans as a whole in 1970. Put another way, if we used the living conditions of someone at the poverty line right now and used that to define the poverty line in 1970, over half of the 1970 population would be below the poverty line.
.... the definition [of poverty] is tied to CPI, which is tied to housing costs, which are more likely to include the cost of a full kitchen now than in the past especially for people near the bottom. I would argue that for someone in that position, having a full kitchen is better than not. Yet the CPI-based measure treats the cost of having a full kitchen as a negative (inflation), without treating the benefit of the full kitchen as a positive
[end copied segment]
Point being, the definition of "poverty" has some hidden inflation built in.
Look at the definition of poverty and you'll agree it's certainly a form of poverty, but again compared to the majority of the planet doesn't really cut it.
Living paycheck to paycheck is generally an unfortunate choice or lack of education, but the point remains that there's a paycheck.
And I can certainly agree that the culture of credit/debt isn't the best.
> Just because the average American has it much better than the average African doesn't mean their situation is necessarily very good.
I completely agree, it's not good at all. I think this underlies my point at the beginning that we need to give even if we don't have $45B. Our ability to generate the paycheck or our ownership of assets on average outstretches the vast majority of the planet.
Poverty is defined along a spectrum, not relative to some kind of global nadir.
> Living paycheck to paycheck is generally an unfortunate choice or lack of education, but the point remains that there's a paycheck.
You're misrepresenting the situation by arguing it's a lifestyle choice. When you're poor it's very hard to save much of anything. Housing, transportation and food can quickly eat up most of a weekly paycheque.
> Our ability to generate the paycheck or our ownership of assets on average outstretches the vast majority of the planet.
Nobody is arguing the US the is place to be if you have money. The point I'm trying to spell out for you is that the averages you discuss are massively skewed by huge inequality. America's middle class are no longer the world's richest and they are shrinking in number. More, America is increasingly opting for a a system of governance that is leaving more and more people behind, especially its most vulnerable.
So you don't really have a point.
When in fact the OP is already in a position to give, he just needs some perspective.
In my experience that's because Americans only talk about personal wealth/income by proxy. They won't talk about how much they earn, but they will talk about how much they pay for rent, or talk about taxes, etc.
It's a way to gauge how much the people you know are making in a system where the concept of pay grade doesn't exist across companies.
If you can feed yourself by going into debt, then you have purchasing power. You need something (except if you're a student) to guarantee the loan.
Not to detract from the generosity of giving away the $44.5B of course...
To criticise the lovely sentiment would be like pointing out a child making a half-dozen spelling errors in their letter to Santa Claus.
Whatever personal faults the man has, I'd argue this kind of philanthropy more than makes up for it.
Let him clean up his act and his company's first, until then he has zero credibility.
This Zucker is no Manoj Bhargava.
But, you know, he could've done all this in private and given her the letter when she turned 16 or 18 or whatever.
lmao, you're kidding right?
A worthy successor to president Obama there.
Zuckerberg, like Gates, is a brilliant but deeply flawed person. However, Zuckerberg appears to be maturing much faster than Gates. I have lots of hope for him left.
Most likely, due to having Gates as an example and inspiration.
Carnegie's wiki page "Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century. He built a leadership role as a philanthropist for the United States and the British Empire."
I'm am greatful these billionaires are giving away their money. I've seen so many wealthy families who are absolutely misserable. Why not give it to good causes? His gift to his daughter is not monetarily spoiling her?
That said, I wish more would just give the money without any strings. Set up the foundation, vet the BOD, and walk away. Just because you are good in business, why would anyone think they are in any position to know how to fix societies problems? Most of these guys gave lived most of their lives in a bubble.
On the other hand, I have yet to see a charity/foundation that I completely trust. The more I look into so many charities/foundations; the more cynical I get.
I do like Mark much more today than yesterday though. You made a great move Mr. Zuckerburg!
I hope your charity dies wonderful things.
(I didn't even read the article. I'm just assuming he's actively involved? If wrong, I applogiguse!)
This trend for "corporations can make the world better" is misleading. Everyone else has failed: military corp, narco, public corp (as in ancient urrs), ... If only one has succeed, we should see it.
I wonder what Greece would think of free cash injections, for example? What could improved infrastructure do for that struggling country?
The pith of my point was that Facebook does not need to repatriate money to America and get taxed to do good, contrary to my post's parent's assertion. There is plenty of good to be done all over the world, and Facebook already has untaxed pools of Euros to use.
Besides, Facebook can put that money to much better use than government. All the lowly users of Facebook on the other hand do not know how to best spend their money and had better hand it over. Zuck says so (so do Gates and Soros).
The point is that if facebook were to stop its tax evasion business, it would probably not be profitable.
The responsability of teaching should be public (so like a government), not just 3 random guys.
Zuck also says "you need to work in a hangar"... Nah, I want my workplace to be better than my home.
Lets not kid ourselves here, Zuckerburg probably likes to think he is God, and with his investments into VR also probably sees his daughter as one of last to be born in anything resembling the natural world. To begin to even try to assign any sort of psychological pathology or diagnostics would be futile. We'll have to hope the universe has a way to keep tech monsters like him in check or that he realizes playing neuromancer with the parents of his child's friends destroyed any sense of authenticity in his daughter's life.
Now he's giving 99% of his wealth to a charity he controls. This is an awesome step: dynastic wealth is stupid. However, it will take a few more good deeds to convince me that he's grown out of his youthful moral indiscretions.
Which is just a way to setup a comfy retirement where you make more from the money than you have to give away to be considered a charity and everywhere you go is now "business" as long as you give some money away on the trip. Make 30% on investments, give away 10%, avoid all kinds of taxes and appear charitable all the while still in control of the whole fortune. Color me skeptical.
Any profits made from investments go back into the charity's holdings. This is a good thing.
More specifically, I worry that Internet.org is an advertiser-funded competitor to the user-funded internet as we know it, and that the interests of advertisers are in many ways contrary to the interests of individuals (e.g. w.r.t. privacy).
Information pipes are a really important building block to a thriving political and economic ecosystem, and for those blocks to be sturdy, it's important that these pipes have built-in privacy protections which remove a lot of value advertisers derive from them.
Why the Rich Give to Charity
Some give out of vanity. Some out of guilt. Some for the tax breaks. Some give out of conviction that their success in business makes them equally expert in solving the world’s problems.
Yet perhaps the most powerful and common reason why the rich give is the idea most commonly referred to as “legacy.”
would you rather be remembered as that guy who build the biggest and meanest personal data collection machine, tracking people, extending global surveillance, pushing to destroy the foundation of the internet and made a fortune out of it (and a little stock trickery), or as the guy who gave most of his billions of money to charity ?
if he's really giving 99% of his wealth to charity, and on top of that puts effort into where the money goes and that it's put to good use, why do you care that he's doing that for legacy?
By "charity" he means himself, his own charity foundation. He's basically putting the money in another pocket and calling it charity. It's a tax avoidance scam. Cheaper to give away 10% a year in the guise of charity than actually pay the taxes you'd owe.
>scams his coworkers
Citation or clarification much appreciated :)
Any public letters are carefully crafted pieces of PR, intention notwithstanding. The criticism probably stemmed from that angle.
This is the problem in expressing your thoughts and feelings with words. The readers would extrapolate the words over all sort of things, rather than the essence to which those words were spoken. Its as if the speaker and his rational is subordinate to the various interpretations of those words.
The essence here is that a family here feels obligated to provide a better world for their newborn child. They are using all the means at their disposal for this. And the best part is that instead of keeping it to themselves, they proclaim it the world so that others can even judge on their promises. That is an admiring, inspiring and a courageous thing to do.
My opinion on philanthropy is that if you're not doing it anonymously then you're doing it more for yourself than for the cause. It becomes just another status symbol (I'm more good than you because look at that news headline of how much I donated).
>brought to you by the originator of one of the most narcissitic platforms of the modern era, and hosted on that very platform, naturally.
Facebook is only as narcissistic as its user, it is as much about taking part in other peoples activities, by commenting/sharing as it is about personal propaganda.
>"Our" generation grew up with having to work to acquire knowledge. To spend time in the library. To sit down and read.
You are ignoring difference in quality of library, value of teachers and external stimuli in learning.
Maybe you need to think more broadly.
Not every school had a library. Not every child had the ability to spend substantial amounts of time in the library. And there definitely wasn't the breadth and depth of content we have today especially if you were more advanced in your learning. I grew up in the 1980's and was very interested in learning more about computing. Guess what. 1-2 books. And I was in an pretty affluent, middle class school. It wasn't until I got access to Compuserve that my knowledge grew.
> Citation needed. Like, really.
Zuckberg was quoting a study from Deloitte:
Example: "Helping poor people in third world countries get online" turned out to be: "Deceiving poor people in third world countries into using something called 'Internet' that's actually 'Facebook with apps', and depriving them of real online access."
That whole thing ended up being an attack on the free and open web.
"Share with friends only" is short for "Share with friends and FB employees and PRISM-subscribers while we decide who gets to see what you shared."
I could go on for quite some time.
Somehow all the "help" he tries to provide ends up increasing his control over other people's lives while disempowering them.
It's not inconceivable that at some point some country (perhaps very close to home) might decide that having a Facebook profile is mandatory in order to operate a business. With their Real Name™ policy it might even be useful for registering citizens. You can see this already happening on a smaller scale with some companies requiring Facebook login in order to use their product or service. I see others calling Facebook a "public utility", seemingly unconscious of where that road leads.
Sure, you can say all of that is still "voluntary". You don't need to use that product and you don't need to even be a citizen of the United States. You could move to some part of Africa where Facebook has not yet commandeered the social infrastructure. But, somewhere around that point I think most would agree that the word "voluntary" ceases to have any real meaning.
I see others calling Facebook a "public utility",
seemingly unconscious of where that road leads.
"The means is the end."
In some ways "how can any two people actually have the power to fix so many problems" is somewhat defeated by the fact that these two people have 45 billion dollars and not to mention plenty of influence.
There are plenty of people/companies that seem to be working very hard to do make inequality worse so it's nice to hear a powerful figure say that are somewhere from neutral to positive.
Joke: in the late 80s, Stasi employed nearly 1 person for 50 people in East Germany. They just say they can do that 5 times better with internet, not impressive in 30 years of technical progress. Give us more!
Bill Gates tried 5 or so years ago to solve the problem with education with his tax shelter non-profit:
Test scores showed that everything he did had no effect on the scores or grades of the student. Each school he built had Internet access the latest in technology, special trained teachers, smaller classes, personalized learning, etc.
If you ask me the technology can be distracting, I only say so because my son is failing chemistry because he doesn't study enough because he is distracted by Youtube videos and video games.
When I was his age I was using a calculator and my father said it was a crutch that I wouldn't be able to do math in my head, and he was correct on that. I could only do math on paper because that was the way they taught us. I have to use a calculator to do math, and the technology distracted me from learning how to do math in my head.
It's hard to look at this sort of statement, especially when it's posted on Facebook. The source of 'Like this posts to do XYZ' or '#KonyIsABadGuy'. But really, the ideals that they strive for seem to build on those that have formed the foundation of our very society. The equality and advancement of mankind. In many ways, this seems no different than what Jefferson or Franklin had in mind.
I say bravo, and am looking forward to the benefits of giga-scale philanthropy.
What are honors classes? What are remedial classes?
To paraphrase some guy on Twitter, Zuckerberg's letter is like a control in the way it measures the baseline meanness of the internet.
That would be you, 6stringmerc.
If you can't respond positively to this announcement, you really should step back and do some serious self-examination.
That particular number is… shall we say “often” used by Facebook’s PR? (Another way of expressing that comes to mind, but I'm not sure how to spell 'jackhammer').
The source is presumably the numbers in there:
matched with the corresponding internet adoption in those countries at the same time. The parallel is discutable, expressly so.
I tried and wasn’t able to match those numbers myself (with internal ressources, when I was working for Fb); I would strongly encourage anyone curious to go through the methodology notes: there are many things that deserves to be discussed around equality, literacy, institutional change. Basically, things that are looked at independently by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and the Society for Institutional & Organizational Economics (SIOE, formerly ISNIE). Neither institution have been involved in that estimation as far as I can tell — and they would have tremendous impact on the nuanced understanding of those forces once they do.
I believe that Facebook can have a dramatic impact on emerging markets, especially with their advertising platform; I know personally who works on measuring that, and I know it is too early to have a proper macroeconomic estimation — but the impact should be very encouraging: there are many places where you cannot grow your business easily.
In the meantime, I would take that argument as:
Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook, Internet.org and internet access in general to lift people out of poverty and into jobs. That means that arguments that argue against his efforts that involve negative effects less than a tenth of “being about to feed their family” will seem quaint to him. Measuring all impacts into orders of magnitude like that can seem a heartless exercice to many, but should not feel foreign to a regular reader of HackerNews.
On the other hand, this also means that efforts that connect internet technology with finding or creating jobs should have MZ’s undying support (modulo a possible ad fee).
What I believe is more interesting are things like:
Does Internet favour local commerce or international transactions? (Unclear)
Are devices and platform used for business similar to those used for personal transaction? (Apparently, yes.)
Will West Africa still be ruled by Mama Benz's, even with widespread adoption the smartphone? (Three forces cannot be stopped in this universe: Death, taxes and Mama Benz's dressing up on Sunday. Samsung better adapt.)
I'm of two minds about this. This is an excellent piece of writing and is extremely persuasive and accomplishes all of it's intended goals. This is very effective writing and may change someone's opinion from emotional calls. It's very human, easy to understand and people flock to it.
However; we have seen the constant and repeated abuse of using this style of writing. Advertisements are the most prominent and politics the most dystopian. It's also very easy to convince people that certain things are facts when that may be disputed or outright wrong.
So there's a weird question to come out of this: how accurate and cited do we really need our emotional appeals to be? Given the effectiveness of the writing, citations seem completely unnecessary. Given the context (letter to child; although I'm fairly certain it was orignially intended for a broader audience this is what they claim) you would assume it has no need to be entirely factual, but that context is changed now that it's become a public letter. A public piece of writing should ethically cite or have some backing for any statistics they claim (in my opinion). Although overall hacker news' culture would probably say that if you make a decision, it should probably be based on real data.
Personally, I think it's a piece of writing meant for a wide audience which in my opinion means they should cite any claims they make in this case. It's easy to mistake it for something else entirely because of how it's written, which is why it appears to get a pass.