I think that what you've written here is incredibly misleading when talking about John D. Rockefeller's philanthropy in particular. It is wrong to imply the Rockefeller's secretly controlled strings in order to make profits from their donations. Time and time again he gave away vast sums of money and did everything in his power to separate himself completely from the donation. His largest fear about donating was that the public would label his donation as tainted money. He wanted no influence over, and never visited with most of the receivers of his donations. His only concern was that institutions should not be wholly dependent on his philanthropy, and work to raise money from other sources as well.
The Rockefeller institute for Medical Research is one of the most successful examples of philanthropy ever. And Rockefeller may only be eclipsed by Bill Gates as the greatest philanthropist ever.
You can absolutely (and should) criticize his business practices, but Rockefeller literally created the model of what a successful philanthropist should do.
This statement reeks of hero worship and seems myopic to me. For one, both of these billionaires became rich through what most view as morally dubious monopolistic practices that had a high degree of collateral damage. The amount that both men are giving back/gave is/was a percentage of what they took. And when that percentage is under 100%, they're taking more than they're giving. That is assuming a zero-sum game, which isn't always true. When someone creates new value, either by invention or work, they can take wealth out of the system and still leave the rest of the system in a net positive state. But I'm strongly of the opinion that both Gates and Rockefeller left the system in a significantly net-negative state, even with all their philanthropy. There's a reason the cohort that Rockefeller was a part of wasn't termed "Donor Barons" despite the legacy of significant charitable contributions from that massive wealth. I don't think it's out of line to include Gates in that group since the tactics he used to achieve his wealth are very similar.
This, to me, puts both of them significantly behind average people who create more value than they take and donate small sums to charity. The man who gives his one and only dollar to charity is far more philanthropic than the man who gives $99b of his $100b. The people who devote their lives to helping others are the ones we should respect, not the people giving billions while still holding billions in reserve for themselves.
You say that a person who gives 100% of his wealth to charity is bigger than one who gives 99%. The amount matters, not percentage. If Bill Gates had your mentality, then at which point do you think he should've given away 100% of his wealth? When he made $100 million or when he made $1 billion? Be reminded, if he had given up 100% of his wealth at those figures, he would never have had any significant money left to increase his wealth, so all those charities and research efforts of his that have received $30 billion+ of his wealth so far wouldn't have existed (the figure was $28 billion in 2013, don't know what it is now).
Bill Gates knows the value of creating value. He knows its better to teach fishing than to give fish. He invests money in research instead of just giving it away blindly because he knows that the outcome of that research will save/improve more lives than giving that money away directly. Again, he also knows that giving away all the money now isn't a better idea since as science progresses, better research will come along that'll need his funding, so he's keeping enough wealth to support those venture if and when they come along. If they don't come along during his lifetime, all of his wealth will anyway go to charity after his death (except $30 million for his children).
His business practices were cutthroat, but that was back when he was younger and not an active philanthropist. As a philanthropist, I think he's the greatest person of all time. Numbers matter, his billions have done more for mankind than misinformed people like you will ever care to admit. So go do some research before you bad mouth him ever again.
I don't care about any of his philanthropic deeds. As far as I'm concerned, they're all "fruit of the poisoned tree." Without his misdeeds, he'd never be in position to be the philanthropist he's become. If you want to talk misguided, you seem to think that he can atone for his past misdeeds. You're wrong. He set back computing at least a decade, killed off several competitors that were genuinely making the computing landscape better and cost businesses billions that they didn't need to spend. As far as I'm concerned, every bit of good that he's doing now could have been done by the others who would have have the money that's now his. It's the broken window fallacy to assume otherwise.
Perhaps you should learn more about his bad behavior before you accuse others of being misguided.
I'm not the one to defend Bill Gates, I think his business practices were atrocious for a lot of industries and we are going to feel the wake of it for a while. With that said, I still think you have too much of a romanticized view of how the world "should be", the world isn't that and it has already happened, that ship has sailed and now Bill Gates tries to pay back to society with the value he created (or siphoned if that's your view), it is what it is.
It's impossible to tell whatever would happen if there was no Bill Gates business practices in the world, you can't say "every bit of good that he's doing could have been done by others", that's an impossible statement to assert.
> world view is too black or white
yet also say:
> that ship has sailed
It is impossible to tell whatever would happen if there was no Bill Gates business practices in the world; Maybe if I burn down your house you'd find hidden gold coins in the ashes? You should still oppose me burning down your house.
I'm really not sure if Rockefeller gave more than he took. That's a tough question to answer. Is a world without Standard Oil, but also without his incredibly vast and important array of philanthropic works a better one? I don't think I can make this argument. Many aspects of modern medicine, public sanitation, public health, and public education are all in debt to his charitable work. Did those not improve the world more than his anti-competitive business practices hurt it?
edit: for example: David was not even born when the Flexner report was released.
So, while I see the implication, the parent never actually makes that implication explicit.
Either way, I think it's important to separate the actions of the grandson and grandfather.