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Jack Ma to Retire from Alibaba (nytimes.com)
401 points by tysone 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 125 comments



"When you are 50 to 60 years old, spend time training and developing young people, the next generation," Ma added. "When you are over 60 years old, you better stay with your grandchildren."

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/30/jack-ma-dont-fear-making-mis...


I actually believe this - he is fulfilling his vision of the stages in life.

Sometimes there are no smokes and mirrors.


I do too, but also, just wait; he may get bored.


>Sometimes there are no smokes and mirrors.

This is hilariously ironic considering Alibaba is almost 100% smoke and mirrors.


How so?


"Alibaba Management is somehow increasing the length and content of their 20-F's, yet, incredibly, they seem to disclose and communicate an even smaller snippet of "meaningful" financial information every year. In fact, there's no longer any doubt in my mind, that they actually go out of their way to deliver ever larger bales of content-free financial silliness. They are not "unfamiliar with Western Financial Reporting Conventions" or doing things "the way they do it in China" as some pundits would have us believe. Math is math no matter where you are on the planet. Gravity is the same whether you are in London, New York or Beijing. Alibaba Managers are in fact masters of manipulation, bending the truth brilliantly to suit their needs. Perhaps they are banking on the premise that nobody actually reads their filings/drivel anyway? (The SEC staff doesn't seem all that concerned!)"

"If, by some strange, impossible happenstance, I'm completely, totally wrong.... and Alibaba isn't actually the tip of the spear for the CCP's full frontal assault on the Western Financial System, the only other conclusion I can possibly come to is that Alibaba the goofiest, most convoluted, opaque, mis-managed accounting mess and business structure in history. That, unfortunately, is the "best case" scenario."

"Yet, Alibaba (BABA) continues to trade higher as increasing numbers of shares find their way into US Financial/Custodial Institutions. Because its value, like the RMB, at least for a time, is pegged/driven by the CCP through off-shore mechanisms, the risk of collapse grows larger by the day. At some point it all has to come tumbling down. But when? That's the immediate, multi-trillion-dollar question."

https://deep-throat-ipo.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-baba-20-ffi...


I think they are referring to Alibaba (allegedly) being a front for the Chinese Communist Party to launder money.


"Hey, from the latest 20-F (page 118) we know that you've created about 600 new legal entities over the last two years under your "Enhancement" program, getting more friends, family and political cronies involved in the dilution of the Capital Structure. So, I guess my question is "how long is this bullshit going to go on?""

https://deep-throat-ipo.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-calland-ope...


"I was offered retirement, or a choice between me not getting old to see my grandkids growing up or my grandkids never to see me as I will be getting old." -- for those geeks that can't translate it to the language of power; pick one of those choices depending on how much faith you have in those in power. Do you truly think Ma is not considering Alibaba his dearest child?


There's a generation of American businessmen that should take this advice.


> An Alibaba spokesman said Ma remains the company’s executive chairman and will provide transition plans over a significant period of time, contrary to a New York Times article that said he was “stepping down” to “retire.” The Times story was taken out of context, and factually wrong, the spokesman said.

https://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2163376/jack...


Does it surprise you that The NY Times took something out of context and provided factually false info?


Yes, it does.


It's their bread and butter. Sticking to the truth is tedious and gets fewer clicks than tabloid-style soap opera, so why bother?


Nope, definitely not surprised.


Not in the least. But they are the preferred "news" provider here and get spammed 24/7.


Retiring or not, he still is one of the riches man on the ASIA and will spend many years spending what he earned and that folks is a stone cold fact. So much for retirement money huh?


The brewing trade war can't make running the company easy for Ma, considering Alibaba does more volume than eBay and Amazon combined as a portal to Chinese manufacturers. Taking into account that the company's listed on a US stock exchange yet still has to answer to government regulation back in China, I can't imagine he's having a good time being caught in the middle.


They'll be ok, even with the trade war. The majority (about 90%) of Alibaba's sales are domestic (Chinese). The rest is exports (not just to the US though): https://www.statista.com/statistics/226793/e-commerce-revenu...

And read this if you want to get an idea of where their revenue comes from: https://www.nasdaq.com/article/alibaba-baba-misses-q1-earnin...


>The majority (about 90%) of Alibaba's sales are domestic (Chinese)

But how many of those domestic customers get their own paycheck from exports? China is moving towards a more domestic-focused economy, but exports are still a big deal for them.


I'm not current on the statistics but my understanding was that at the moment there is a flow of real goods (and services?) from China to America.

If that assumption is reasonable, it is difficult to describe a situation in China where the customers get worse off due to reduced exports without the leadership going crazy (like shutting down all their factories and everyone sitting at home sulking instead of selling their goods locally at a discount). If they pretend the American dollar is the be-all-and-end-all they will get into trouble, but it is hard to see why they would do that.

I'd speculate the situation would be OK for any shareholders in China, where any on-paper drops would be countered by improved real access to stuff, and probably bad for shareholders in America where on paper drops may as well be real. Of course, real life is so complicated it is who can even guess?


Did you try reading the above linked NASDAQ link?

Total overall revenues:

Alibaba reported revenues of RMB80.9 billion (US$12.23 billion), up 61% from the prior-year quarter. Also, revenues came in slightly above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of US$12.25 billion.

Total revenues related to selling exports:

· International commerce retail business (6% of the total revenues) - Revenues in the quarter were RMB4.3 billion (US$652 million), increasing 64% year over year. The increase was driven by robust GMV growth in two marketplaces, namely Lazada and AliExpress.

· International commerce wholesale business (2% of the total revenues) - This business generated revenues of RMB1.8 billion (US$278 million), increasing 14% from the prior-year quarter. The growth was due to an increase in the number of paying members on alibaba.com platform.

So a total of 8% of total revenues were due to selling exports. Plus, it's not clear how much of that revenue is from Lazada, which is not subject to US tariffs because its target market is Southeast Asia. If anything, everyone is suffering from US tariffs, so Lazada can only grow because it's a trade relationship that doesn't depend on the US.


I think you misunderstood what they were saying... That it's possible the domestic customers that make up the majority of Alibaba revenue may decrease their spending on the platform if their own incomes rely on exports.


Yup completely misread and misunderstood, my bad. :)


as a chinese, we barely rely on export as you may already aware of. domestic economy doesn't change even a bit during trade war. simply because we are LARGE in many perpective. the cost of renting the house or buy one are on a up-hill. you may felt we should be affected, but the fact is that we use your tech(computer engineering) and change our life without much expense of research and development.


Everyone hurts from a trade war. As an American, you should know we have seen so much boasting lately that it sounds like the noise of young children.


i work in engineering and math so my eco-knowledge is limited. yes it seems we need to boast to keep economy grows and that's what domestic gov do. i am in age 22 and i was in euro 2 years ago, i been to shanghai, hang zhou, and if i may i could judge we haven't been really hurt. personally when i was little i can't afford whole day air-conditioner open, and i so couldn't i drive to anywhere far, but these days my family economy status didn't improve considerablely but appreantly they are cheap


Well that and he hasn't been running the company for a while. He stepped down as CEO in 2013. This is very similar to Bill Gates leaving Microsoft (who Ma has actually mentioned as an influence).


I visited Alibaba in 2011 and at that time he had already handed the reigns over to David Wei.



There's one key fact they seem to be either missing or intentionally ignoring: Alibaba's websites are marketplaces populated by third-party sellers. So they don't need to have enough staff to ship all those parcels because they're not the company shipping them, and it's perfectly normal that customers would be receiving multiple packages because every seller packs their goods seperately.

The reason I'm suggesting that they're intentionally ignoring this fact is that it's actually in the information presented in the article. For example, the video they link in their section about the logistics explains this in detail.


Not an easy company by any stretch. British Virgin Islands registered and extremely hard to unwrap ultimate ownership even.


Alibaba is much more transparent than say Huawei. Alibaba is even publicly traded on an American exchange, so its ownership is much more clear.


It's illegal for foreigners to own a Chinese company. A shell company based in the Caribbean is publicly traded. It owns no assets.

https://www.barrons.com/articles/beware-the-pitfalls-of-the-...


It is not illegal for foreigners to own part of Chinese companies. It's generally illegal for a single foreign entity to own a controlling interest. Softbank and Yahoo invested into Alibaba relatively early on. It was incorporated in China. Their positions represented the majority of shares in the business, just not individually.


> It's generally illegal for a single foreign entity to own a controlling interest.

This is also not true. China, like all developing economies that have reached the global stage, allows WFOEs and FICEs [1]. There's significant taxes involved but these taxes are being decreased all the time .

(It's quite remarkable the stuff people believe about doing business in China. Really have to wonder where these ideas come from.)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wholly_Foreign-Owned_Enterpris...


There are severe restrictions on WFOEs. For all practical purposes they're useless for running a domestic tech business.

Really recommend this write up on VIEs and Alibaba: https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/conferences/2017-imo/Documents/M...


Good points but probably not the reason why he is really retiring. Jack Ma cannot be more famous than their President.


The reason Jack Ma is stepping down from Alibaba is that he was becoming too powerful and influencial in China. Jack is very smart and knows that you can build your wealth and power until you begin to threaten the party, then you either need to step down or you will be forcefully taken down.


Definitely influential...

I was with a 30-year-old Chinese lady last night. Entrepreneur... I asked who her role models are, and she said "Only one... Jack Ma".


Aim for the stars, hit the moon.


Interesting thought. Can you provide any historical examples of this?


Xiao Jianhua, Wang Jian (HNA) are recent examples. When Bo Xilai was purged, Xu Ming, a businessman with very close ties to him, were arrested for bribery, and later died mysteriously in prison. Given the turbulent political scene it could be a good move to distance himself from everything, at least for some time.


When one stands in front of the Many Faced God, all the money they had, even if it were trillions are literally useless. Many may have read about it for a while, but it was only these recent events that makes you truly understand. Why they are willing to paid millions for "services" to move their "millions" out of China and live outside.

Fan Bingbing is another example, and countless others.

And it proves that China, is still no different to how it operate in the Qing dynasty or all dynasty before hundreds to thousands years ago.

But of coz my guess are many of these stories don't get covered by Western Media.



You can look at his existing behavior for clues to that being the case. When he took control of Ant Financial from Alibaba, spinning it off, he gave himself 2/3 of the business. That diluted position would still be worth around $80-$90 billion today. Instead of holding onto that, he proceeded to massively dilute his ownership and control of Ant. The reason he did that, is the same reason he was allowed to take it away from Alibaba without proper compensation (Alibaba was majority owned by multiple foreign shareholders): strategic national interest, an edict from the government. The major banks are all directly state controlled. A very large share of all online transactions in China flow through Ant Financial, the government couldn't allow that to remain in one person's hands. Jack got his orders.

In China as a business person it's extremely dangerous to become too powerful or rich, especially now. Maybe you could have gotten away with it 15 years ago. China of today is very different from China of the late 1990s and 2000s.

If Jack Ma had held onto his original contrived Ant position, he'd nearly be the richest person on earth, with a potential chokehold on finance, industry and retail in China. That position could have plausibly been worth several hundred billion dollars to him personally over time. That's not something you want to aspire to currently in China.


That process began long before Alibaba ran into problems with Xi's people (and it was a petty dispute with lowest tier retainer)


In the East the Political Class holds the power, whereas in the West it's the Business Class that holds the power


The Dictator's Handbook talks about this in good details. Recommended read, especially in today's world political climate.


Interesting, can you elaborate more specifically on the actions needed to be taken?


tinfoil intensifies


I hope he's able to make a positive impact on education!


with the intensity he speaks and the clarity he has in what he speaks and given the fact he was a teacher, I fully expect him to actually make a positive impact


I wish all geeks who want to reform (save) education also had Ma's classroom experience. It's easy to tell other people how to do their jobs. Hard to actually do the job.


If I had one grain of wisdom I could impart to most geeks, it would be to impart the value of truly watching and listening.

That thing you're building? Find someone who's really good at the current way it's done.

Sit and watch them. Don't talk, just observe and understand.

After you've sat silently for awhile, then ask any questions you have.

Your product will be immeasurably better in at least one way.


[flagged]


Correct me if I'm wrong, but the grammar in your comment implies that he's pushing for "top heavy admininstration-first hierarchies". It seems absolutely ridiculous for Ma, someone who went through the terrible experience of struggling into University in China, taking four years to pass the absolutely brutal entrance exam.

Also, after he graduated with an English degree, he had absolutely no qualifications to get a professional job and he resigned to being a lecturer until he got into Cheung Kong GSB.

To me, it feels like your comment isn't rooted in any foundation and is a manifestation of personal experiences and insecurities, I'm assuming a result of the American higher ed system and its "super expensive degrees".

However cynical you may be, please don't let your past experiences misguide your hope for future improvement.


Saying it with snark is not the same as establishing it factually - usually the former is used when the latter is lacking.

Who knows, maybe we can have an intelligent conversation, expand our knowledge and understanding, and not just repeat partisan small-government talking points.


I don’t really disagree with you, but we’re talking about China here, is the situation even similar there?


(You forgot to link your citation, FYI)


Retire or get offed... Easy choice.

I am wondering how many years has China left, unconstrained kleptocracy can't last more than a few decades.


> Ma will remain executive chairman while the plan is carried out. A New York Times report that said he was “stepping down” to “retire” was out of context, and factually wrong, an Alibaba spokesman said

https://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2163376/jack...


Jack Ma will be able to get more stuff done not being burdened by the Alibaba leader position. I guess it's just politics for his hands not to be tied and he could make bigger changes in China.


Odds of a financial scandal in the next year?


"You couldn't successfully audit a good sized publicly held, domestic US Car Dealership for the fees that PWC Hong Kong charges to audit a global enterprise like Alibaba"

"I have no idea how PWC can audit this mess for the fees they charge. Every year, the hours of work required expand geometrically and the fees come in at about what you'd charge to audit a large US/Domestic publicly traded Car Dealership. Keep this in mind, Alibaba now has 920 Operating Units (Did I mention that?) scattered all over the globe, a massive Capital Structure "Enhancement", with many of these WFOE's and VIE's located in the PRC and all of these entities are audited from the PWC Hong Kong office. If I were trying to audit this we'd have substantial travel, staff time and training on both IFRS and GAAP accounting treatment and methods. All to be researched and applied to myriad business combinations, sales, mergers and divestitures. Incredibly, PWC Hong Kong does the whole thing, including tax services and consulting for US$12.8 million dollars ($13,900 per business unit @ US$12.8 million/920), up from US$ 8.4 Million the prior year. PWC is the the new "Dollar Store" of public accounting."

https://deep-throat-ipo.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-baba-20-ffi...


Unlikely?

> As Alibaba has flourished, Mr. Ma has talked many times about how he did not want to spend his whole life at the company, saying he would retire one day and go back to teaching.


More like, odds of Jack Ma "falling" off a cliff?


He was the chairman, not a day to day guy who would know about such things.


That was my instinct too.


Fake News


Didn't think Musk would outlast him.


Enron 2019 confirmed.


>Among China’s biggest companies, Alibaba is viewed as one of the firms with the deepest ranks of management talent.

Claim going perpendicular to experience of every Alibaba employee I met.

A person who was singlehandedly running both business development and operations for all of Aliexpress has left the company after 5 years without a promotion.

The co has a reputation for squeezing work enthusiasm out from even most spirited people around.


Wouldn't that follow? If your talented management ranks run deep the only way up is out. He may be fantastic at what he does but if everyone above is also fantastic, the best thing you can do is raise compensation. Is that what happened?


It's also a huge company and one persons experience with their particular piece of upper management could be very different for 99% of the other people.

It's possible it was just some low-quality middle managers underneath the talent which blocked his recognition as well.

Jobs and wages are not finite resources either. If the person was legitimately producing value for the company, well beyond his own 'cost' to the company then smart management should have been able to find a way to keep him happy. Sometime it even comes down to communicating your value and making sure you're noticed.

Working hard isn't always sufficient on it's own sadly. Sometimes easy for managers to miss and believe that the other people chomping at the bit for the position are just as capable.


My friend at Google told me it was the same. So much talent in the company that a lot of really good people were essentially sitting on the bench. Don't know how it is now, but he told me that a little over a decade ago. I imagine it might still be similar.


It’s not at all unusual for senior execs to rarely get promoted, since there are so few roles to promote them into. Look how long Sheryl Sandberg has and will be COO of Facebook.


The thing is, the guy was a no name "overseas business development manager" for all 5 years. He was one of first foreigners in the company.


I don't ask this flippantly. Is it possible that he simply wasn't as good as he thought he was? In situations like this, I often find the company culture can suck, but I also often find that people overrate themselves and aren't willing to develop. I'd say my observations are about half-half.


Given what a business Aliexpress became under his watch, nobody will challenge his contribution


Exactly- success hides failure. That’s why it’s an interesting question. So what’s the answer?


You can compare the global direction he overlooked, vs. USA strategic direction staffed with trophy execs and given enormous marketing budget (which was measured close to $100m and possibly more in recent years,) vs. one he had, which was zero.

Aliexpress was created with explicit intention of barging into US market, yet it ended up with them making more money in Russia than in every other market combined.


Whatever punishment lays ahead for facebook Sheryl will be the face of it.


I know someone who now works at Huawei, which is 1.5 hours by shuttle from where he lives in Beijing. Typically gets there 8am and leaves 7-8pm. He used to work at Alibaba which was 30 mins from his house. I asked why he changed and he said at Alibaba he didn't get home before midnight most days.

Of course overtime is not paid...


>Claim going perpendicular to experience of every Alibaba employee I met.

Probably opposite, not perpendicular then :)


People frequentyly use the term parallell to describe having the same experience, so logicaly a perpendicular experience would be synonymous with an opposite experience :)


No, in fact my coworkers and I use the term "orthogonal", which is synonymous with perpendicular, to mean two uncorrelated things. It's a statistics term.


Orthogonal is from linear algebra or geometry, a generalization of perpendicular. Perpendicular implies only two dimensions.

I'd expect George P. to remember that from the dozens of PhDs.


One of the funnier random comments I've ever read on HN.


"Synonymous" doesn't have a logically descriptive definition, but it's definitely not the same as saying "identical". OP was flat out trying to use perpendicular to mean something that doesn't make sense based on its typical usage.


i for one have enjoyed this tangent off the main topic of conversation


You might be more correct than the other guy, but I'm holding you to a higher standard, Wramblin' Wreck.


at risk of being utterly pedantic, I think you might prefer using 'antiparallel'


Not sure if gp is native English speaker, but there are several languages where 'perpendicular' is used in this way.


It ain't working that bad so far. I mean we have increasing gap, but the 0.0001%, which arguably is pretty smart, is in the end using both their wealth and wisdom to try to selflessly make the world a better place.

I just checked the numbers and indeed, relative amount of money spend on philanthropy seems to be increasing[1][2], I couldn't find any global numbers though.

1. https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&...

2. https://www.nptrust.org/philanthropic-resources/charitable-g...


A Chinese company is probably a bad example since their real wages have been increasing, but do you think relative charity might be increasing because the rich keep getting richer and the poor poorer? More people need help and the rich feel the pain less.


The gap is increasing but the poor are overwhelmingly getting richer, not poorer.

I'm talking about in real terms, standard of living has gone up across the world for decades, even as the population has grown.


It's gone up in the developing world. It hasn't gone up in the US. Infrastructure that the common man relied on is crumbling or is just gone, ie Flint water, and the rich are just importing everything they need to themselves


> It hasn't gone up in the US.

It has gone up in the US.

The poor in the US are radically better off today than they were 40 or 50 years ago.

Medicaid only came into existence in 1965. Today, after decades of expansion, it covers the bottom ~22% of people in the US with free healthcare.

The Food Stamp Act came into existence in 1964. In 1990, 20 million people received food stamps. Today, after decades of expansion (including large expansions under the Bush Administration, an unpopular fact), it covers 40 million people. The SNAP program has gone from paying out $15 billion in 2001, to $63 billion in 2016.

The real per capita income transfer, for welfare policies, has nearly tripled since 1980. The US social safety net is almost infinitely better than it was in ~1967 near the peak of global US economic dominance post WW2. There was hardly any social safety net back then. And it's considerably better than it was in 1980 or 1990.

The cynics take this to mean the US economy is much worse off than in eg 1980 or 1990 (Rhetorically does that mean Denmark's economy is collapsing? Their welfare state is far larger than the US welfare state as share of the economy). That's not the case, the US welfare state has been expanded to include more people. That has helped push homelessness and poverty to near record lows currently.


Portions of the US are worse off. It's still easily the case that the standard of living has increased for most people.


Living standards, calorie consumption, GDP, literacy and life expectancy skyrocketed higher and faster for more people anywhere in history under the early years of the USSR and PRC but we tend to only talk about those metrics when they're convenient.


Does that math only include people who weren't deliberately starved to death or murdered? Seems difficult to reconcile those claims with history unless you're excluding pretty wide swaths of people.


If we're going to include that then you need to take into account the costs of the other side like the trail of tears, Tuskegee experiments, bananna republics backed by the CIA, the attack on greenwood Tulsa, Cuba having giant sanctions on them that destroyed their economy, etc.

I'm perfectly fine discussing the outcome of systems, or the individual aspect of systems, but you can't compare the net outcome of system A to the individual problems of system B

Edit: before anyone questions what my hisses might be they are as follows. I believe that capitalist US ended up better on a whole than communist USSR for the betterment of humanity. I also believe its inaccurate to different aspects of their systems and pretend one way was wholly better than the other


Does the average American born after 1990 have more house or a better retirement plan than their parents? There's luxuries like smartphones that have increased but the basics have been slipping out of more and more people's hands


> Does the average American born after 1990 have more house or a better retirement plan than their parents?

No, but their parents had longer to save. The average person born in 1990 has a higher average real wage than their parents did. Given the novelty of college debt, it’s difficult to say much more, but mean statistics point to a wealthier American population at all levels today than any time before. The issue is the rich have gotten richer faster, not that the poor are getting poorer.


> The average person born in 1990 has a higher average real wage than their parents did

Mean, yes, median, less so.

> but mean statistics point to a wealthier American population at all levels today than any time before.

“mean statistics” don't tell you anything about “at all levels”, and are misleading because of the increasing top-heaviness of the distribution.


> Mean, yes, median, less so

Median quite so [1]. Every class of American is getting richer, just not as fast as the ultra-rich.

[1] https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEHOINUSA672N/


That's household income, not wages, and not comparing like age groups across time (because of population aging.) So it doesn't support the above claim about real wages for those born in 1990 vs. their parents being true when shifted from mean to median.

Even leaving aside that outside of abject, starvation-level poverty, relative deprivation is a bigger contributor to disutility than absolute deprivation, such that everyone getting richer in absolute terms but the already rich getting rich faster would actually be a bad thing even if true.


But considering the gap, it could be better. This is like the tax-cuts-- "Oh, you should be happy you're getting a few hundred dollars back!". Well yeah, but if the cuts had been made fairly across income brackets, I'd be getting thousands.


Just to be super clear, I don't think that the increasing gap is a good thing. I was just commenting on the fact that surprisingly many super rich people decide to go into philanthropy instead of letting their wealth dissolve within their families.

Buffet had a nice, pretty old article about why leaving huge loads of money to your children is a bad idea but I can't find it at the moment.


http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive...

Summary quote:

Buffett is not cutting his children out of his fortune because they are wastrels or wantons or refuse to go into the family business -- the traditional reasons rich parents withhold money. Says he: ''My kids are going , to carve out their own place in this world, and they know I'm for them whatever they want to do.'' But he believes that setting up his heirs with ''a lifetime supply of food stamps just because they came out of the right womb'' can be ''harmful'' for them and is ''an antisocial act.'' To him the perfect amount to leave children is ''enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.'' For a college graduate, Buffett reckons ''a few hundred thousand dollars'' sounds about right.

That’s in 1986, so the equivalent figure is more like a million bucks and change today.


Considering that the gap also means increasing disdain against the rich, I'm not that surprised. Not saying it's all just PR and getting on the good side of the mob, but it's still true that before being revered for his philanthropy, Bill Gates was one of the most hated people in tech.


Among other tech people, right? Was he ever hated by random people in South Dakota?


Philanthropy is in many cases personal PR for the rich, or just something easy to do rather than work or do nothing.

I’m sure Buffett and Gates are doing it for other reasons. But generic_billionaire donating paltry amounts of money is just buying goodwill from the public, other rich people, the local community, politicians, etc. A rich person donating 1% of their wealth each year may be donating a lot in absolute terms but very little relative to what they have


They're still donating. Are we seriously chastising people for giving money to causes of their own volition because we feel it isn't enough?


Yes, this is basically where we are at today. Apparently we are to hold every rich person to some esoteric standard because every wealthy person made their money by exploiting others; none of them were positive-sum contributors to society.

And when someone donates a lot of money, we just say they are buying PR and have calculated the ROI like the terrible capitalist they are, with zero evidence at all this is the case.


If it's a straight donation maybe it's PRless. The number of people like Trump's or Zuckerberg's who donate to family foundations that give them tax breaks and give them a way to funnel money to their family through jobs that are paid by the foundations, has seriously degraded trust in the concept of charities as organizations.

It's like running a company nowadays and wondering why your employees have no loyalty. Yea, maybe you're the one group that has acted honorably, but 90% of your peers have been rat bastards and you can't be surprised if the average person assumes you are too


Showing loyalty for the sake of loyalty as a worker has nothing to do with honor. It's... stupid. I do not expect my employees to show loyalty to me because they should. I expect them to remain employed with me because it is their best option, and I compete for their labor business with the other employers in the pool.


Which is an appropriate belief based on reality. The same way that assuming someone rich donating to charity has ulterior motives, because rich people donating to charity have demonstrated repeatedly that they have ulterior motives


It's disingenuous to frame the problems people have with the 1% as being due to them not positively contributing to society.

Rather, the entire capitalist system, tax loopholes, and corrupt politicians have lead to increased disparity between the rich and poor.

I'm fine with the claim that some people who create value and are net-positive, such as many of the rich people, absolutely should have significant wealth.

However, they should not have the level of wealth they have now, wealth that is enough to feed every homeless in their cities for centuries, wealth that could house and clothe the needy for decades....

We should not have loopholes like the estate tax reductions which mean even after they die, their family line can greedily clutch onto the money for generations to come, creating a severe class divide.

Just because we are angry with the system does not mean we all think rich people are innately evil.

Also, we have all the evidence we need to condemn the current distribution of wealth: the current distribution of wealth is self-evidently disgustingly bad.


That the rich get richer is just math, not a value statement.

Preferential attachment in the absence of proactive redistribution leads to accelerating inequity.

As you know, too much inequity undermines democracy.

If we want a Liberal, democratic society, we need progressive policies. Some mechanisms to offset windfall profits, level the playing field. Debt jubilees, entitlements, UBI, Keynesianism, something.

While I'm (very) sympathetic to "late stage capitalism" rhetoric, I think it's besides the point. Inequity predates capitalism and won't be remedied by eliminating capitalism.


> That the rich get richer is just math, not a value statement.

The actual statement is "The gap between the rich and poor is widening".

Of course the rich will be rich. That's a tautology.

They don't have to be rich at the expense of the rest of society, which is where we're at now.


>Apparently we are to hold every rich person to some esoteric standard because every wealthy person made their money by exploiting others; none of them were positive-sum contributors to society.

Yes, that's correct. What, you think Bezos and Ma are genius visionaries for coming up with the idea of buying things on the internet? A democratically managed worker's co-op could have accomplished the same things as Amazon and Alibaba with almost none of the disgusting exploitative labor practices and wide scale human suffering.


Then they would have, or we would have more examples of said practice.


Uh, yes?

I give a higher percentage of my income to charitable causes than any of these "philanthropists" and I manage to not waste an insane amount of money on a disgustingly wasteful life of luxury at the same time, but for some reason I don't have an army of sycophants defending my every action on the internet.


A higher percentage of your income does not magically feed more people, nor does a "flat tax" like you propose (merely substituting "donation" for the tax) scale economically for any number of reasons.




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