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Mark Zuckerberg Agrees to Give Away Fortune (wsj.com)
239 points by jakarta on Dec 9, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 193 comments


I wonder if all these very public proclamations are going to shift people's attitude towards taxes? Most people think of the government as wasteful, inefficient, incompetent, and corrupt to more or less degrees, and I know I'd prefer to see money allocated by smart people like Gates, Buffet, Zuckerberg than by politicians who need to keep constituents happy and win votes.

I committed a while back to giving 10% of my income to charity henceforth, probably for my whole life. I know I've felt much better when I raised money for St. Jude's or Grand Ormond Street children's hospitals than when I wrote a check to the IRS to fund the latest special interest-fueled debacle.

There's a "the evil rich are against us" narrative in movies and stories a lot, but I wonder if the perception will start to change when all the good from these endeavors is realized. I think it's quite likely that smart people allocating resources intelligently will do 10x, 20x, 50x more good with the money than a politician possibly could.

Sometimes it takes the government (or someone funded by them) to come up with novel solutions for the maladies that have plagued humanity. Norman Borlaug for famine, Jonas Salk for Polio, the research into Avian influenza and H1N1 pandemics, space exploration, etc. have all been either spearheaded, guided or financially encouraged by government agencies.

These are areas which charities (and corporations, for that matter) have sometimes fallen short due to either lack of funding or the mission-critical nature of the moment. Either way, we must agree that it's tough to conclude that governments are completely incompetent and charities aren't, however apt the perception may be.

> Sometimes it takes the government

Hmmm. Not disagreeing that some things funded by government grants have been worthwhile, but almost every scientific discovery before the WW2 period was funded independently of the government -- including big ticket areas involving fundamental research like automobiles, railroads, and aviation.

Well, most railroad expansion was due to a govt act giving tons of land rights and other highly valuable privileges to anyone laying track in the territories - the TransContinental railroad was laid this way.

However, quite true on the rest.

A private company did it the honest way and laid a more efficient track. The government paid per mile of track laid which you can imagine can go wrong all kinds of ways.

A very good point - though as a counter the plank-road mania of the early 1800's was a fully private sector road bubble: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plank_road

Only after the crash of 1857. Prior to that American railroad networks were quite decentralized and much more competitive (not only with themselves, but also with canal systems). Most were financed by local entrepreneurs and often by the British and American companies that sold track on credit.

BTW: This sub-comment thread is a testament to how good HN still is at bringing together reasonable/thoughtful people - thanks guys.

This might be true in some fields, but there was plenty of government research pre-WW2 in epidemiology and public health. Look up Walter Reed in the Wikipedia for an example of what I'm talking about.

Of course, it should be mentioned that much of that pre-WW2 government research was a) actually sponsored by the military, or by government entities that had strong military roots, and b) was of questionable ethical quality by today's standards.

I don't like estate taxes. Governments are typically terrible financial stewards and bad examples of financial responsibility. Give the government one billion and it will find a way to spend two.

But I also don't like the idea of a permanent aristocratic class where generation after generation are born into opulence because your great grandfather created a great company.

The movement towards philanthropy is a great alternative as long there are clearly defined and applied metrics of success. Gates Foundation does a good job at this. If you claim you're going to change the world, but you can't prove it, you won't get funding again.

I'd argue one of the points of estate taxes (which are heavily favored by Buffet, Gates, et. al) is to encourage you to will your fortunes to philanthropy - so it doesn't end up in the hands of the government.

The biggest lobbies for increased estate taxes are life insurance companies:


“The estate tax is a cash cow for the life insurance industry – and the industry’s lobbyists guard it zealously...[o]nly three industries – pharmaceuticals, electric utilities, and oil and gas – spent more over the same period.”

For more details on WHY the life insurance lobbies aggressively to support the estate tax, see this link from ramanujan's article:



"Life insurance is the most basic tool for estate planning. Put simply, inheritance is subject to the estate tax, while life insurance benefits are untaxed. This drives up the demand for life insurance, thus driving up the price. The disparate tax treatment distorts the market so much that a wealthy person could buy a policy knowing he will pay more in premiums than the value of the benefit – and it would still make sense financially.

For example, if someone bought a $20 million whole life policy at age 60, and paid $25 million over the years in premiums, he would still be giving more to heirs (an untaxed $20 million) than if he just bequeathed that $25 million to his children – because after the estate tax, that could be worth less than $20 million."

--This discussion has been really informative. Thanks to all.

Is there anything to stop a person from investing their estate in a company whose sole purpose is to insure their life?

If it hasn't already been tried, the IRS would tie it up in litigation for so long that the principal would be consumed by legal fees.

Of which Buffet owns several. Which may or may not play a role in his support.

I don't think it does. The life insurance contribution to Berkshire Hathaway results is quite small. The bulk of the income is from reinsurance and P/C activities.

How many billions has this guy given away again? I'd wager that he doesn't really care about an extra few million in insurance company profits.

Great point! High estate taxes gives an incentive to the wealthy not to pay estate taxes.

The original intent of my argument was that I don't like the idea of handing over half your estate to the government. I suppose the proponents of the high estate tax wanted avoidance of the tax via philanthropy as an intended side effect.

Thanks, I never looked at it that way.

Another one is to avoid the creation of a plutocracy. Of course, somebody more cynical could argue that it is too late for that.

Or buy expensive life insurance policies.

> Governments are typically terrible financial stewards

Well, no: many governments are far more responsible than most individuals. That's not true in counties were everyone criticize the government as strongly as you do in the United States, but in countries where government positions are prestigious, the most talented people work there. As recently demonstrated, financial incentives are no where as efficient as job safety and support for creative tasks, this is why a system that promote civic dedication has tremendous impact.

What's a country where government positions are prestigious for reasons other than they're an opportunity to participate in bribery and corruption? (Switzerland?)

From what I understand, the government of Singapore keeps corruption low just by paying their officials a lot. The president makes about $3 million.


It may just be an anecdote but it seems like a reasonable system to me.

EDIT: had the wrong dollar amount.

Germany had the same "strategy". I'm not sure pre-emptively bribing every official up-front really solves the "cost" issue to Joe Sixpack. Corruption might be more affordable in the end...

That wikipedia page says about 3 million, not 300 million.

My mistake: fixed.

Some countries value what you can't buy. Peerage works well in the UK, and is rather cheap. In France, the possibility to spend a career working in central historical buildings makes the best minds cram for decades.

> But I also don't like the idea of a permanent aristocratic class where generation after generation are born into opulence because your great grandfather created a great company.

If you make a ridiculous amount of money, what's wrong with making sure that your family is financially secure for generations?

It cripples upward mobility for the rest of society. You could make an argument that upward mobility is one of Americas greatest strengths. It keeps people motivated and it allows the entire population the chance to contribute to advancement.

> It cripples upward mobility for the rest of society


This is a strange question to me. I know there is probably some similarity in how governments and individuals allocate large amounts of money--for instance, federal spending to curtail HIV/AIDS in Africa compared to Gates' spending to curtail malaria--but the bulk of it doesn't overlap. Gates, Buffett, and Zuckerberg shouldn't hire my town's police force, and can't afford to hire my country's military or even maintain my country's highways.

As long as things like that need to be done, someone needs to pay taxes. And Warren Buffett would be the first to tell you he and his fellow billionaires should be the one paying the taxes.

I don't see why the police, military, and highways need to be funded through government. To the extent that these services provide a benefit, there's no reason to think they couldn't be supplied in a free market.

You don't have a market without a government to protect property rights. You can't have competing entities protecting property rights, because the Marxist gang down the street is going to protect a different set of property rights than the capitalist gang up the street.

Libertarians like to think of private property as some kind of moral essential, and it might be, but that's not enough to make anarcho-capitalism work. While we can probably all agree to outlaw murder, we can't, in fact, all agree on enforcing the same property rights. Plus, there needs to be a way to authoritatively register and adjudicate property claims, not a dozen competing protection rackets[1], each with its own inconsistent rules.

[1] Even actual protection rackets try not to overlap in territory, for exactly this reason.

Not that I'm opposed to private security forces or weapons ownership, but remember BlackWater et al are "private military/police - also known as mercs who are fully motivated by money. Even our police have loyalties to each other and their town - however stupidly they may act, they know they're not easily for hire.

Not sure...

Good for you giving away a significant portion of income.


"I know I'd prefer to see money allocated by smart people like Gates, Buffet, Zuckerberg than by politicians who need to keep constituents happy and win votes."

I feel like you are treating these conditions as being mutually exclusive, and they do not need to be. I want money allocated by intelligent people who need to keep constituents happy. And I want them to have smart constituents, so that they are actually held accountable making bad allocations. This is because I want a large number of problems to be taken care of expediently.


Rich != Smart.

I don't see how it is that being rich makes Gates, Buffet, Zuckerberg better at allocating resources. Sure, they have some business savvy, but there is a certain amount of luck involved as well (as with any statistical out-lier). This doesn't account for others who made their money through inheritance, and are dumb (really dumb).

The point is not that 'the evil rich are against us,' the point is that they benefit exponentially from government protections compared to a normal person and should provide funds accordingly. I don't see how any of these people would be able to hold onto (or even establish) their wealth without the protections (and utilities, and services) afforded by the government (and if they were, it would simply be some sort of Monarchy).

(ex. The rich don't just benefit from their own use of public roads, they benefit from their employees and customers use as well. How do the rich obtain intelligent, educated labor without required public education? How do they plan to hold onto wealth as they accumulate it without the enforcement of various property laws?)

Charity is good, don't give me wrong. But the rich are hardly victims of the government.

>(ex. The rich don't just benefit from their own use of public roads, they benefit from their employees and customers use as well. How do the rich obtain intelligent, educated labor without required public education? How do they plan to hold onto wealth as they accumulate it without the enforcement of various property laws?)

I think this argument is flawed for a couple of reasons. One: that someone offers me something that benefits me does not and should not legally compel me to compensate them in return. Take open source software as an example. It has enabled many companies to make money, but they cannot be compelled to compensate the author. And yet that seems to be the argument. The government does things that benefit people, so they should be compelled to pay the government in return. Well, sorry, I appreciate what you've done but I didn't ask you to do it or make you do it so I'll donate to you if I feel like it, not if you feel like it.

Two: all of the benefits you've listed are individual things which individually cost money. Yes, the rich benefit from their employees being able to drive to work. But they pay their employees and their employees in turn pay taxes and fees on gas and other driving related things to pay for the roads. They benefit from an educated workforce and a police force, but those things are paid for through property taxes and other things. The system is made up of a variety of specific things. To lump them all together and say "You couldn't have accumulated your wealth without the system, so you owe the system a whole bunch of your wealth" seems to me to be somewhat dishonest. Sure, they benefit from the system, but specific parts of the system have costs, and I don't think the government's inability to figure out what those costs are and how to collect them justifies just taking a whole bunch of money from the people who look like they benefit from it and can afford it.

1.) It is called a social contract. You have given up some of your own sovereignty to the government so that it can maintain order. By entering into this contract, you are ensured your civil rights. Social contracts are implicit.

This is much different than a legal contract, and makes very little sense in context of your analogy.

2. Why is point two confusing?

I benefit from public education by having been put through school.

An employer benefits from public education by having been put through public school, and also from having employees (like me) who have been put through school.

It is a problem if he pays proportional to the amount of money that he makes, rather than the amount of utility that he receives from the service. Therefore, his taxes and my taxes should not be the same, because he receives a greater total utility.

> The point is not that 'the evil rich are against us,' the point is that they benefit exponentially from government protections compared to a normal person and should provide funds accordingly.

I think most people would agree with this, but let's remember that taxes are pretty much always based on percentages, which mean that they do scale. 30% of a billion isn't the same as 30% of 50k.

I think this seems to be too often forgotten in the "the wealthy don't pay more taxes than me!" argument.

You should start (or locate) a charity that dedicates itself to decreasing government waste and donate the money to them. You'd probably get more bang for your buck, even if it didn't focus purely on the humanitarian side of government.

> You should start (or locate) a charity that dedicates itself to decreasing government waste and donate the money to them. You'd probably get more bang for your buck, even if it didn't focus purely on the humanitarian side of government.

I think it's a good goal, but a bad use of charitable funds due to the fact that politics has some unfortunately strong zero sum elements about it. I don't categorize any primarily political organizations as charity, even if I agree with their aims.

Although some isolated initiative are great (Zuckerberg's pledge to education is presumably very much needed) most private charities are more expensive to manage and often counter-productive. Government redistribution can have in well-run countries handling cost around 3-5%; too many charities are closer to 15%. Government handles essential concerns, permanent efforts, infrastructure investment, etc. while many private charities browse around, try something but have little follow-through after the first media coverage. Governments can have a more global view of things, that can help isolate massively more efficient efforts, even when they aren't popular, like prevention, half-way homes. A majority of public money is spend on things with little isolated, visible impact, but the marginal impact can be much higher. A lot of local leaders in Africa have criticized the B&M Gates Foundation for being too disruptive for the good of beneficiaries.

I won't diminish the impact of being associated to massively successful people, or simply having spectacularly talented people manage those funds, but please don't confuse the good feeling of being in control with actual marginal impact.

Government redistribution can have in well-run countries handling cost around 3-5%; too many charities are closer to 15%.

The charity costs include publicity and fundraising drives. To make apples-to-apples comparison you'd have to include the cost of the IRS infrastructure and the cost to society of the entire tax collection and avoidance machine.

Government handles essential concerns

That this is not self-evident is, well, self-evident. Much criticism of government spending is around governments focussing on whatever lobby yells loudest, while charities are market driven: i.e. they fill actual needs that someone sees in the community.

A lot of local leaders in Africa have criticized the B&M Gates Foundation for being too disruptive for the good of beneficiaries.

A lot of local leaders in Africa do considerably less well under a privately allocated distribution than they do from government aid.

> include the cost of the IRS infrastructure

Nope: what matters is marginal costs and raising rates isn't nearly as expensive and cash-burning as “awareness” campaign.

> whatever lobby yells loudest, while charities are market driven

That statement appears self-contradictory to me. Lobbies introduce market concerns to a generally one-man-one-vote representative democratic process.

My point about Africa is not about who should be labelled a leader or a government: it is that development doesn't need just money, it needs institutions, education, trust… Things that take time; things with massive externalities. Throwing billions like fastballs won't help anyone from benefitting from those. Do you think that William Kamkwamba (the heavily publicized boy who couldn't go to school, yet made a windmill himself) needs 10k$ or 100M$, or does he need roads, electricity, running water to his village? Of all the hundreds of charities that offered to help him, none suggested infrastructure. Local government are deeply corrupted, but all state-sponsored projects seem far more relevant for me, albeit less photogenic.

Yeah, given that a lot of Africa's "local leaders" are a major part of Africa's problems I'm disinclined to believe what they say.

all the benefits delivered to mankind by the efforts of the innovators hasn't stopped the demonization of the rich. giving away what they've been paid to deliver those benefits probably won't either.

Rich are not demonized.

People who use their wealth to feel superior and annoy others, who are wealthy enough to set up tax-evasion scheme, who behave as if they can pay to be above the law are demonized.

As long as wealth is earned without coercion by providing goods and services to others, why should you care if someone is using their wealth to "feel superior"? What moral justification is there to take away (through taxes or otherwise) the wealth of someone who has earned it through voluntary exchange? If you choose to work harder than me in providing things of value to others and you grow richer than me as a result, why should I (or a democratic government) then have a claim on your wealth?

Most people who are richer became so because they employed others. They wealth did not just come from their talent, but the quality of the education that the government helped these workers obtain, the fact that they could arrive safety to work; they wouldn't be so rich if no fire brigade stopped the stocks from burning to the ground — that's the reason why wealthier people should be more taxed.

My initial answer was about resentment, not tax rates. You strike me as a libertarian: Everyone is free of their opinion, so who are you criticizing them for being jealous? ;) No, seriously: some people, often not those who made their fortune by being nice to their clients, but their self-entitled heir, behave like pricks. I see it all the time when I go to fancy restaurants, and it actually bothers me.

From anecdotal declaration from wealthy individuals, I'm assuming the original entrepreneur would prefer that their children behave, because they know the importance of being nice, but until recently, social rules have prevent them from disenfranchising them. Before Warren Buffet set an acceptable voluntary roof for inheritance, forcing heirs to behave was a social conundrum, resolved by guilt.

absolutely. you have the right to the work of your own hands and mind. Your rights don't evaporate just because of a show of hands.

I'm pretty sure no one has argued against the right for anyone to work for two centuries. (There were laws against that before.)

What is discussed is what kind of property rules make society better, just like for copyright: absolutes don't work so well. Even if a man should be able to “do what he pleases” with his money, he can't buy nuclear warheads, or his last competitors. In some context, letting one person owns too much can be damaging; whether its his responsibility to do good, or society's role to enforce better ownership should depend on the cultural context and innovation. The economists who lead the study of how those interact won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2008. Liberal property rights like what you advocate works best in extensive context like the original rural USA; within cities, evergetic rules seem preferable; when there are decisive, irreplaceable common goods like irrigation or seaport, more inclusive system, that let a community influence individual decisions are preferable.

You need to make sense of the context that gave you the values that you care about, otherwise you end up either defending inappropriate non-sense, and forcing it onto others (case in point: Acta) or, lost (like all my fellow countrymen who wonder why our national anthem is so hateful).

I disagree. The rich are often demonized, at least to the extent that the non-rich feel the rich have an obligation to give their wealth away in order to subsidize the less fortunate. Those that don't, like Gates in his early career, were often treated with disdain.

If I recall correctly, Gates was disdained first, when he wasn't so rich, and because he went against the doxa of the time that was that code was a fun thing to do (see Dan Ariely's work on introducing commercial elements in social pursuits) ; most actually had no idea what he wanted to do, and those who did knew he sold an OS that he didn't write himself. Now that his work is behind him and he is left with just his fortune, his popularity seems to have raised.

Probably because "rich" and "innovators" isn't really the same thing, and there was even less overlap in the past.

well, I prefer people be demonized for their crimes, not for what they have.

"Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can't buy enough to eat." --Will Rogers

People demonize the wealthy because they see people acting selfishly and it creating, or at least ignoring, the basic injustices of the world. If I had fallen down, would you not ask me if I was okay? Would you not offer to help me up?

Transforming Facebook from a website to a profitable business is a great business accomplishment. Transforming the wealth acquired in such an endeavor into educations, scholarships, and other decency-of-life improvements is simply a great accomplishment.

fortunately, most wealth is invested in ventures that hire people.

The economic disasters that impoverish so many are not caused by the rich who've worked to create their wealth but by those who mismanage economies and abuse others to benefit themselves and their friends. These thieves are rich to be sure, but a distinction should be made between the two groups.

Not sure how this should shift people's attitudes towards taxes. Do we increase them to encourage charitable giving or decrease them so the rich have more to give?

At some level this type of thinking lets government off the hook. Philanthropy by the ultra rich is not a solution to government waste and won't solve the fundamental problems in the US government.

Agreed - who hear has found how generous other founders are of their time, connections, etc.? Ever try to get a favor from ever a local politician? If you do, you get far less for far more - in my experience...

Don't you mean "Great Ormond Street children's hospitals" ? You gave money to them but don't even remember their name properly?

> Don't you mean "Great Ormond Street children's hospitals" ?

Correct - I'm not a native Londoner and I've spent less than a year there across my life. I also organized two small charity events, and asked a friend of mine what the equivalent of St. Jude's is in London, and he said Great Ormond Street.

> You gave money to them but don't even remember their name properly?

Unnecessarily dickish comment. But yes, I swapped "Great" and "Grand" in my comment incorrectly, good catch there.

After someone asked Warren Buffet why he wanted to give away all of his fortune, he replied:

"I want to leave enough money to my children that they can do anything, but no so much that they will do nothing".

Lawrence: Well you don't need a million dollars to do nothing, man. Just take a look at my cousin, he's broke, don't do shit.

It's a great idea when your children are young, but they are in their fifties now...

The British entrepreneur and investor Peter Jones also worried about that problem and decided to double any money his children earned for themselves.

I don't like that as an incentive. For a start, it keeps your children in your financial orbit for the rest of your life. Secondly, it communicates to your children that you don't expect them ever to make as much money as you did.

Whenever I wish I were super-wealthy, I try to remember that super wealth probably just creates all sorts of problems when raising children. If I ever do get super wealthy I'll plan to spend all but a few million dollars, secretly and out of sight of the children, before they reach the age of twelve, so that I don't have to worry about them growing up with the typical rich-kid problems.

He's actually even more tactical than that. The multiple depended on the job his kids get. I think he said he'd quadruple a nurses salary but they wouldn't get anything at all if they became investment bankers.

I happen to have just watched a brilliant TED talk on the value of angel investment (not aid) in Africa. The talk underlined how it is capitalism rather than charity that creates wealth.

It would be wonderful to see some of SV's glitterati create more for-profit investment networks (bigger than Kiva, smaller than VC (...YC?)) in other hungry markets.

Kudos to Mark for committing to this. If he applies his product-brilliance to how he goes about it I'm sure he will do wonderful things.

(Alexis this has your name written all over it BTW ;)

I will bet anyone that 20 years from now we will see that China's "greedy" investment in Africa has done more good than all the decades and $billions of "selfless" western aid, both public and private.

And I also will bet that privatized school systems will perform better than public school bureaucracies that receive hundred million dollar gifts.

The invisible hand is puckish like that.

I'll happily take that bet — but please check the local situation first.

You remember the Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and its impact on local business? There has been the same disaster, continuously for decades, thanks to oil extractions by “greedy” Shell. Somali pirates? They were fighting illegal radioactive dumps that contaminated their food, that were more “lean and efficient” to leave there rather then properly process. When locals are up in arms, the local economy rarely benefit.

According to friends who worked for the UN or US Aid, there is far worst to come, thanks to Chinese company.

Hmm, could a free market approach to African development be what we were missing all along? If only we could come to some sort of consensus on that approach. We could call it the Washington consensus.


Not that I'd go down as opposing, but it could also be a nice way to get this idea some attention/publicity.

(And make some money in 20 years :)

Do you have a link to the TED talk?

The most relevant I found http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/euvin_naidoo_on_investing_...

Though I don't know if is about angel investing, the one OP watched.

Sorry, I should have put it in in the first place: http://www.ted.com/talks/ngozi_okonjo_iweala_on_doing_busine...

Capitalism creating wealth in Africa? Cruel joke?

Nope. Counter-intuitive truth.

It isn't even that counter-intuitive. The approach for the longest time was to give aid through food and other basic necessities. Teaching a person how to fish rather than giving him fish clearly produces better results in the long term.

This is the "dirty little secret" about the sudden rise in African fortunes in the last decade or so (it is the fastest ascension of the middle class for Africa in... well, ever).

And, I know correlation != causation, but it's interesting nonetheless to note that this has happened under unprecedented investment by China in the continent, while investment rates actually shrank in the West (particularly in Europe, which probably is attributable to the financial crisis). This ascension is a marked improvement compared to, say, the efforts of Colonialism (the so-called "scramble for Africa"), Apartheid, and guilt-ridden charity.

It depends, if your teaching the person to fish to improve his way of life or teaching the person to fish to further line the pockets of an overseas corporation.

I think the wikileaks stuff on shell's behavior in Nigeria highlights this issue.

The real issue for the longest time was subsidy. We gave aid to African dairy farmers...but we subsidized American Diary so much that it was cheaper for Africans to buy our milk, and neglect their own domestic production.

"We are often told that the poor are grateful for charity. Some of them are, no doubt, but the best amongst the poor are never grateful. They are ungrateful, discontented, disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite right to be so. Charity they feel to be a ridiculously inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tyrannise over their private lives. Why should they be grateful for the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table?" - Oscar Wilde


I think if Mark wanted to give back to the world he should do what Elon Musk is doing and start high risk businesses that can create widespread beneficial change in the world.

He's 26. Give him time.

by consuming government money making sports cars? Please, no, Mark.

Starting with sports cars seems like a good plan to me. Let the people who can afford to pay a premium help fund development of the technology which can then be used in cheaper cars for the masses.

A lot of automobile technology is developed in race cars like Formula 1 many years before making it's way into mainstream cars.

I can't comment on the government subsidies though.

of course not. it doesn't matter if government takes over venture funding. its not like they're bad at stuff

To be fair I think that's what he just did

I'd rather see more people following the lead of Elon Musk than Bill Gates. Instead of throwing money at problems that will always exist and producing no real value, Musk is creating high-tech jobs and advancing the state of humanity.

I share neither your certainty that malaria will always exist, nor your belief that ending the epidemic would produce no real value. Along with HIV, it has crippled a continent and caused immeasurable suffering.

Elon Musk is doing great things. How many other potential Musks are there whose opportunities to do such things were cut short due to the very problems the Gates foundation addresses? Even just in his home country, South Africa, there have likely been a few.

Absolutely - in Hans Rosling's famous TED speech, he mentions how public health is the most important thing regarding a countries economic growth and well being.

It's certainly a testament to the power of perspective that you've dismissed a quarter of the planet living sick, hungry, and in poverty as "problems that will always exist", and decided that doing something about it produces no "real value."

> It's certainly a testament to the power of perspective that you've dismissed a quarter of the planet living sick, hungry, and in poverty as "problems that will always exist", and decided that doing something about it produces no "real value."

Can we spare the moral condemnations? Today's advances in the cutting edge of sciences become the life-saving and enhancing cheap commodities of the future, and being skeptical that poverty can ever be truly defeated isn't exactly a radical position.

That said, I agree with you more than the original poster, and I think philanthropy is fantastic. But let's spare the moral condemnations and shaming of someone who has an alternative point of view.

I find it a really shameful comment. It seems like unbelievably wishful thinking to claim that high-tech startups are the most important thing everyone should be doing when the going rate for saving lives from tuberculosis or malaria is in the hundreds of dollars per (e.g. http://www.givewell.org/charities/top-charities). I'd like to hear why that is not real value. No doubt most First World businesses produce technology and efficiency advancements that are genuinely useful, but I doubt that very many are that useful.

I can't imagine how you could hold the original poster's view as stated unless you literally don't value human life very much, or you have done some convincing math about how much good Tesla Motors is likely to do the world. I condemn it without reservation.

> I find it a really shameful comment.

You can still debate the merits civilly - and that makes it more likely to actually change someone's opinion than just expressing outrage.

> It seems like unbelievably wishful thinking to claim that high-tech startups are the most important thing everyone should be doing when the going rate for saving lives from tuberculosis or malaria is in the hundreds of dollars per

There's no conflict here. New technology saves lives, often by use in unexpected ways. Eradicating disease saves lives. They're both good.

> I can't imagine how you could hold the original poster's view as stated unless you literally don't value human life very much, or you have done some convincing math about how much good Tesla Motors is likely to do the world. I condemn it without reservation.

You don't see how electric cars could save lives? Coupled with better batteries and advanced nuclear power, it goes a long way towards obsoleting fossil fuels and driving down the costs of transportation. That's huge - lower pollution and lower costs on everything - medicine, food, housing - lower transport costs makes everything more affordable.

As for the condemnation? Why not just, y'know, state your point of view without the moral condemnation? I don't think it adds much to the discussion. By the way, I'm more in agreement with you than the OP, though I think it's a bit more nuanced than you make it out to be.

As for the condemnation? Why not just, y'know, state your point of view without the moral condemnation? I don't think it adds much to the discussion. By the way, I'm more in agreement with you than the OP, though I think it's a bit more nuanced than you make it out to be.

Well, mostly because my comments read more dramatically when I take the opportunity to cast a good antagonist for them.

Having electric cars that are more efficient and cleaner than existing cars would be great, and it would save a lot of energy and labor, but the amount of money and effort spent on attaining that goal is far greater than what (e.g.) Tesla is spending individually; it's the net total of many years of research and many years yet to come of implementation and manufacturing. (That is, it's not like Elon Musk is singlehandedly bringing us to an era of ubiquitous electric vehicles.) It strains my credibility to imagine that the same money and man-hours, if they were allocated with equal passion toward education, disease, or the elimination of poverty, would not turn a much greater ROI over a few decades than more efficient cars.

Our current situation is such that thanks to culture, incentives, and human nature, ninety-nine percent of educated, able people with the ability and drive to work very hard, decide to work at some personally profitable business or industry. I am not inclined to take the remaining one percent and criticize them for plucking what seems like extremely low-hanging fruit from the other tree.

The choir is my favorite place for preaching so I'm glad you agree!

>Well, mostly because my comments read more dramatically when I take the opportunity to cast a good antagonist for them.

Only in your own mind.

No doubt most First World businesses produce technology and efficiency advancements that are genuinely useful, but I doubt that very many are that useful.

It's a wide array of advances by first world businesses in many industries that led to those medicines being as prevalent and as cheap as they are. It'll be yet more advances that lead to them being even cheaper and even more effective. A healthy balance is required - not just technological advancement, but not just saving every life at the cost of advancement either.

Without the concept of hightech startups, most of the people we are discussing would never have their fortunes to give away.

Just as well no one's proposing to do away with the concept of hightech startups, then.

Valuing those who give to charity more than those who start businesses is like eating your only chicken then wondering why you don't have any more eggs.

The people being talked about here are ones who have both started businesses (or at least run them very successfully) and given to charity.

Poverty, hunger, and sickness will all continue to be a problem this side of singularity, practically by definition.

No amount of money thrown directly at the problem will ever put a halt to them, our only hope for salvation lies in continuing our pursuit of technology unhindered.

To his credit he does call himself burgerbrain :-)

Glad somebody finally got it. It's an alliterative play on "meat-head", but the few times people have commented on it they thought it referred to some sort of dietary politics ;)

i disagree with you elon musk is just creating toys for the rich.bill gates and likes are working on real problems . In some developing countries that l know you may not believe how hard it is to get a clean drinking water

Except Bill Gates isn't just throwing money at problems and producing no real value. You may not be seeing the benefits of his work directly, but he is making a real difference, and I'd be willing to bet, through his work, employing far more people who work to pull people up rather than merely advancing the advanced.

Edit: I'm not against people advancing the human race mind you (advancing the advanced). However, neither is Bill Gates merely handing out money. He's teaching men to fish, rather than simply giving them fillets.

So saving several million lives produced no real value?

I think of this as sort of a cop out (on the part of all the people who do it). If you're good at business, then you can have a far bigger impact by creating businesses than by simply giving your money to some charity.

It's ultimately a socially lauded thing to do that divorces the donor from any ultimate responsibility for the amount of "greater good" done with the funds. I think they do it out of fear that they were a lucky, one-hit wonder... and out of low self-esteem or fear of the angry mob.

YC is a great example of a way to use wealth to make a real difference. PG uses his acumen to help a lot more people level up. This multiplies wealth. Spending it on charities simply redistributes it.

It makes me very pessimistic to see that the world's wealthiest people feel the need simply to pledge the money away, and no need to risk total failure by going out on a limb to do something bigger than whatever got them there.

What if Bill Gates tried some long shot idea and it flopped? What if Zuckerberg or Case did? That would take real courage. This pledge nonsense reminds me of the self-satisfied smirks people emit when publicly putting money into the collection basket in a church. Why isn't one of these rich guys going to bat for Wikileaks? (Probably because it feels a lot better to be praised all the time for being such a great person by all the sycophants trying to get you to write a check!)

It may seem that they are just giving it away to charity. But many of the donations that Bill Gates provides are making new waves in terms of research, development techniques and expanding microfinance.

They are not just pledging money away. These are serious investments that are evaluated in the same way a VC/Angel pick a startup. A colleague of mine tried to apply/pitch to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the event (many people pitched) lasted six hours with two reviews and rigorous questioning. He was not successful, but he said it was a very thorough examination.^1

Bottom line: A portion of these pledges are more than putting money into collection baskets, it is putting it into the baskets of third world women who need an extra sewing machine to make ten more shirts so their kids can go to school and have food.

1 - I am sure not every donation is made this way

I realize Gates does this and I think it's great.

I just wonder if Gates might have the ability to do far more if he just invested in himself.

No, not a fair question. What does this even mean? If you really think you know anything at all about how Bill Gates should spend his time and money, feel free to go ahead and actually say what you think he should be spending it on, instead of mouthing platitudes about "bigger ideas" and "investing in himself."

I don't know how he should spend his time, nor do I claim to.

Personally, I'd like to see him start a company that would invent a mobile phone battery that lasts for a month and can power an RC aircraft to fly all the way around the world.

I also worry about the overall risklessness of what he's doing. He's pledged all of his money, so who can criticize it? For most people it's beyond reproach just because of the stated goals.

When Gates dropped out of Harvard he was doing something that a lot of people thought was stupid. That's how big ideas are. I'd like to see him doing something that might actually result in people mocking him for having lost his fortune on a bad idea.

The merit of an action is not determined by its risk of looking stupid. Not in either direction.

When doing something not-risky is bad, the reason is usually that it isn't ambitious enough: that you've avoided doing something that could have been better because you were afraid of failing. But the total eradication of malaria is not an unambitious, can't-possibly-fail undertaking: it's a huge task, it's not obvious that it can be done, and it would bring enormous benefit to the world. If it's immune to criticism, then as you suggest it's because it looks like a noble and generous thing to do. In other words, the lack of criticism isn't an indicator of lack of ambition, of aiming too low.

Personally, I'd like to see him start a company that would invent a mobile phone battery that lasts for a month and can power an RC aircraft to fly all the way around the world.

Instead of, say, eradicating malaria? You're kidding, right?

grandalf has a fair (if self-interested) point. He's not gonna contract malaria and neither am I. But I'd kinda like a phone battery that lasts a month.

Not just self-interested. I think such a battery would result in greater malaria eradication than direct efforts.

I think such a battery would result in greater malaria eradication than direct efforts.

I might accept "greater good". There's no way I'll accept "greater malaria eradication".

The Gates Foundation is working on malaria eradication because it's one of those things where you really do get great returns by just attacking the problem head on. Batteries have nothing to do with malaria.

The other thing about super-batteries is that there's no shortage of sensible profit-chasing money pouring into it. If Sony, Samsung, Ford, Toyota, General Electric and Rolls Royce are all already pouring billions of dollars into it, there's not much point in Bill Gates throwing a couple of billion onto the pile. But apart from the Gates Foundation hardly anyone with deep pockets is targeting malaria.

The cotton gin eradicated lots of diseases. If you think that the battery I describe wouldn't have a similar impact on developing economies, you're experiencing a bit of an imagination failure.

I just used batteries as an example. The money being poured into batteries is commensurate with the overall value to society of creating them. This is not a market failure. The reason money isn't flowing to malaria prevention is because the structural problems that lead to the disease prevent the resulting human capital from having much of any economic value.

It seems like some of the responses here are missing the point. Sure, we get to play Angry Birds the whole way on a flight to Australia. But countless people in areas where electricity is still hard to come by suddenly gain the ability to use cell phones and computers, while only needing to charge them infrequently.

Given the impact of mobile devices we've seen in Africa so far, this sort of innovation would have a huge impact.

That said, I don't agree that Bill Gates is necessarily the best person to go solve this problem, nor that this would be an obviously more optimal area for him to invest in than those he's chosen so far.

>Personally, I'd like to see him start a company that would invent a mobile phone battery that lasts for a month and can power an RC aircraft to fly all the way around the world.

Wow, amazing. I'd hate to live in a world where you had a say.

Technology is going to advance just fine with or without Gates. We'll have eventually have batteries that last years or something that obsoletes them all together. Unless enough wealthy people get malaria it might never get cured without heroic efforts like what Gates is doing.

Amazing. Who cares about people dying, I want to be able to play Angry Birds non-stop when flying to Australia.

I disagree. I've heard Bill Gates speak and spoken with profs who worked with him; he is deeply informed on the health and edu issues he works on. If we can get smart, creative people tackling those, all the better. Some problems don't have a market solution.

Gates might be the exception, and I do admire his work on malaria. But I really do wonder if there isn't a bigger idea that he's cowering away from in his quest to simply give his fortune away.

The quest to give his fortune away and cowering from a bigger idea?

He is changing the way development works. He is better funded than almost anyone else with no obligation to any other stakeholders (namely governments and political entities that use aid as a political chip).

He gets the opportunity to, as a private individual, challenge the market failures of our time. Who else is going to fund research aimed at saving the world's poorest with little chance of ROI? He can basically act like China does with their foreign aid but without taking all their natural resources in exchange.

If you truly think there is some big idea he is cowering from, you may have the greatest imagination I know of.

It doesn't read like a quest to give his fortune away, it looks more like a quest to try and solve some of the most intractable problems of poverty that the world faces. His legacy is trying to make the world a better place for the people sitting at the very bottom who capitalism has forsaken.

I don't dispute that his work has helped many, many people. I also acknowledge that simply putting money toward some of those dire problems now will ease a great deal of suffering, which is wonderful.

But philanthropy is an old fashioned way to solve problems. I guess I have this hope that someone like Gates would see a solution that took a very unexpected path.

He is investing in people/companies to solve those big issues, like a YCombinator for development with pockets 100x the size.

Bill Gates, as much as any other person you can probably name, got the entire developed world using personal computers. That was literally Microsoft's mission statement: a computer on every desk and in every home. You expect him to make a new business that'll outdo that? Trying to eradicate malaria in Africa isn't enough for you?

I think personal computers were going to spread anyway, Microsoft won the war for which OS they ran. Basically the spread of computers was going happen through natural market forces anyway, regardless of Microsoft.

Eradicating malaria is not something that is going to solve it's self, so it's a much bigger challenge.

You might have a point in just donating to a generic charity but Gates? I can't imagine anything he could possibly have done with that money that could have more impact than what he actually is doing. He's funding research that would never get done otherwise.

Capitalism may be good at what it does, but it isn't the answer to all problems.

I agree, and I think it's disappointing to see people pledge money so recklessly. And if it's not reckless, it's some sort of strange self-loathing that I don't understand. Just imagine what he could do by building an equally powerful company meant to fix just one problem...amazing things.

Well put.

How much liquid wealth does Mark actually have? Isn't the vast majority of it purely theoretical based on Facebook equity purchases?

Important paragraph in the article:

"Mr. Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in his Harvard University dorm before dropping out of college and working on the business full time in California, is one of the world's youngest billionaires, worth an estimated $6.9 billion, according to Forbes. Yet since his wealth is from his ownership stake a company that has yet to list on the stock market, much of that wealth is theoretical at this point."

Right. So is there anyway to estimate his actual liquid wealth?

It's a great system. We, too, can pledge to give away our theoretical billions.

This is a public pledge on his part that he'll give away the majority of his wealth over time, not right this moment. At the moment, I'm not sure the guy owns much of anything besides Facebook stock. Last I read, he rents a little house and drives a paid-off Nissan coupe.

Simple living high thinking. I bet many people in his position would have already mortgaged a mansion and ultra-luxury car.

I agree. In fact, I know many broke people who have already mortgaged a mansion and ultra-luxury car.

There is no reason for Facebook to go public anytime in the near future. It will be more and more revenue positive as it refines its advertising model. Zuckerberg's contribution is therefore worth very little at the moment, outside of the tremendous commitment it implies for Mark. At some point, he will probably control huge amounts of wealth and it's bold of him to sign away most of the cash before he ever has control over it.

But wouldn't it be amusing if Facebook were to go the way of preceding social networks, and leave the "world's youngest billionaire" looking a little silly for pledging a fortune that never materialized?

They'll probably let him off the hook if he doesn't end up a billionaire...

If Facebook does go the way of preceding social networks, it will happen in a very different way. They're a much more competent and diverse company than Friendster, MySpace, and Bebo were.

It's certainly commendable to give away a vast fortune, and I don't want to take away from this honorable act in any way.

But I wonder why more ridiculously wealthy entrepreneurs don't, ya know, preneur? Especially in the nonprofit "make a difference space".

A billion dollars to charity is cool. You know what's really cool? A billion dollars towards a celebrity billionaire-spearheaded do-good project. (Or 1 million dollars each towards 1000 projects, etc.)

Maybe I'm missing something, and I'm certainly no billionaire, so I probably am. But if I were a billionaire, I'd be more interested in angel investing (in promising, impactful projects) and my bringing my own ideas to life.

But I digress. Bravo to the billionaires. Really, this is awesome.

This is from the PDF on the giving pledge website:

"The pledge does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations. The pledge asks only that the individual give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes or charitable organizations either before or after their death."

Interesting way to do this. I still don't really understand the need for a pledge of this magnitude, but at least they aren't pooling the money or soliciting for specific causes.

That being said, I still think Zuck is far too young to make such a strong commitment.

> That being said, I still think Zuck is far too young to make such a strong commitment.

Do you really think so? Mark is a few years older than me, and I've already arrived at the decision that I'd do much the same as him if I ever had the same cash. He's bright, quite savvy regarding the public, and he's got a great inner stamina. I doubt he worries if he's capable of making money — maybe he'll never equal Facebook's success, in fact probably he won't, but I doubt if he started all over again today he'd fail to make himself a comfortable, cozy living.

It's not like he's being asked to live an ascetic lifestyle, though all stories I've read say that he's fairly minimal. He's just being asked to give away most of his money to help other people. In his case, "most of his wealth" still leaves him more than I've got at present.

I'm just saying that when you're young, and you've had your head buried in work, hearing sage advice from mentors, advisors, and board members, it's possible that now isn't the best time to make that sort of decision. I'm not condemning it, and if it's what he wants to do, who am I to stop him, but something just doesn't feel right about it. That's just my .02

This is really great to hear. We need more of this.

I'd pledge if I had any hugely significant sum like the others in the pledge, but alas.

There's no reason you couldn't start small. Find some cause you support or someone you know in greater need than yourself and contribute what you can. If you feel you can't do anything now you probably will always be able to find a reason you can't in the future.

> I'd pledge if I had any hugely significant sum like the others in the pledge

Lives in the developing world can be saved for less than $1000/life (that is, something like $20 per disability-adjusted-life-year). You personally could save dozens--perhaps hundred--of human lives, which I consider to be hugely significant.

but for how long?

I quoted $20 per disability-adjusted-life-year (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disability-adjusted_life_year). That means for $1000 you could allow one child who otherwise would have died an infant to live into old age, extend the lives of 10 people by 5 years, etc.

I earn a pretty good salary in a developing country. 'Pretty good' is quite relative and would be minuscule compared to salaries in the developed world. But - I live a comfortable life here, and 10% of my monthly salary I donate is sufficient to support 2 kids for schooling, lodging and food.

So, yes, starting small means a lot, and it doesn't need to be a huge amount at all.

their whole lives

You can give it away while you're alive, or split it between your loved ones and the state when you die. I think it would be more fun giving it away to those most in need rather than enriching those who've already had a pretty good life... and your loved ones, too.

perhaps, but if you teach and educate your children how they can duplicate your success, and give them a headstart with the fortune you've built, then you can do just as much, if not more, than the charity down the street.

Look, I'm not advocating against giving, but I don't think jumping into pledges is the smartest way to begin.

If I had billions I would certainly pay great attention to where I would put that money to work in order to create most goodness and wealth out of it. I would be wary of many charities as groups can get as confused from big money as individuals do.

AFAIK, Jobs has still not committed.

From his Playboy interview, aged 29:

Playboy: What does the money actually mean to you?

Jobs: I still don't understand it. It's a large responsibility to have more than you can spend in your lifetime--and I feel I have to spend it. If you die, you certainly don't want to leave a large amount to your children. It will just ruin their lives. And if you die without kids, it will all go to the Government. Almost everyone would think that he could invest the money back into humanity in a much more astute way than the Government could. The challenges are to figure out how to live with it and to reinvest it back into the world, which means either giving it away or using it to express your concerns or values.

Playboy: So what do you do?

Jobs: That's a part of my life that I like to keep private. When I have some time, I'm going to start a public foundation. I do some things privately now.

Playboy: You could spend all of your time disbursing your money.

Jobs: Oh, you have to. I'm convinced that to give away a dollar effectively is harder than to make a dollar.

Playboy: Could that be an excuse to put off doing something?

Jobs: No. There are some simple reasons for that. One is that in order to learn how to do something well, you have to fail sometimes. In order to fail, there has to be a measurement system. And that's the problem with most philanthropy--there's no measurement system. You give somebody some money to do something and most of the time you can really never measure whether you failed or succeeded in your judgment of that person or his ideas or their implementation. So if you can't succeed or fail, it's really hard to get better. Also, most of the time, the people who come to you with ideas don't provide the best ideas. You go seek the best ideas out, and that takes a lot of time.

Playboy: If you plan to use your visibility to create a model for people, why is this one of the areas you choose not to discuss?

Jobs: Because I haven't done anything much yet. In that area, actions should speak the loudest.


Fascinating. Knowing Jobs' penchant for secrecy, the Steven P. Jobs Foundation could well exist today, only as a collection of charitable organizations under various names.

I find it odd how people such as Gates and Zuckerberg obsessively stomp down their competition through any means possible, and then turn around and grandiosely pledge to give away their gains.

Many consider it to be the job of the businessperson to do everything they can to help their business' success within the legal framework it exists in. As long as that legal framework is democratically constructed, I don't see any reason to think of that as immoral, so I don't really see any contradiction there.

Trying to balance the karma.

This is great; Rather than having government's and or NGO employees who pulls normal salary and aren't experienced in efficiently managing the spending of billions of dollars of development aid and end up harming the recipients, we are now getting the billionaires - people who excel at efficiently investing billions of dollars to reap billions more - to allocate these resources.

Hey Sergey, Larry, and Steve, heads up.

These guys all have around the same net worth as Zuck, but much more liquidity. Sergey "don't be evil" Brin's absence from the list is a particularly curious... Anyone know what his philanthropic track record is like? Is it mostly through Google.org?

is not donating to charity evil now? man, thats escalated.

I like that it's about thinking how to give responsibly and effectively, pledging early in life so they can put their creativity to good use, as the article says. People who sign are trading ideas and logistical advice, it's like a book club for philanthropy.

I wonder if you can buy real groceries using facebook stock, yet.

Well I'd be willing to give you a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs for, say, 0.1% of the company. So yes.


Facebook valued at 12 billion gallons of milk in private exchanges

Yet since his wealth is from his ownership stake a company that has yet to list on the stock market, much of that wealth is theoretical at this point.

Someone once said, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past." If you ask me, this just might do it for Zuck. Congrats Man! I hope you find yourself surprised by how many other young entrepreneurs follow suit. But seriously, do yourself a favor, quit renting your little college house and buy yourself a little home while interest rates are still low.

There is at least one billionare who is thinking different:


That's a story about the eight philanthropies Thiel is funding, which are much more oriented along the lines of "give a man the plans for a new fishing machine" than traditional philanthropy.

It's commendable for anyone to give away their money, but especially so when it's a guy in his mid-twenties.

He doesn't have a billion dollars until the IPO. Good Luck Zuck.

Stating that the global population was heading towards 9 billion, Gates said, “If we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services (abortion), we could lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 per cent.”

Another billionaire signs up for Gate's depopulation agenda.

Well, this will properly be nice for those who receive those founds, but I have to wonder why he did it. Why get a fortune just to give it away?

I can't really fathom why anyone would care what his reasons are. He wants to give away several billion to improve education and eradicate disease and poverty, and beyond that reasons really shouldn't matter.

Carnegie's philosophy on wealth (mentioned in the article) is not a terrible philosophy to live your life by both in the realm of philanthropy and in most other aspects of life.

You should read How To Get Rich by Felix Dennis. Here is an excerpt where he mentions giving money away: "So why do I not give it away? Because I worked too hard for it. Because I am tained by it. Because I am afraid to. All those reasons and more. Perhaps, if I am lucky enough to become old, I will accumulate something else: the courage to give it all away before I die. That would be a good thing, I think. ... "Giving money away when you are dead takes no guts. No courage. But to divest yourself of hundreds of millions of dollars, or the greater part of your fortune, before your death? That would be something to be proud of, don't you think? It even makes logical sense."

> Why get a fortune just to give it away?

Why climb Mount Everest just to come back down?

Because if you don't, you'll be dead within the next day: http://godheadv.blogspot.com/2010/04/abandoned-on-everest.ht...

Your point still stands though.

I think that for some people, particularly billionaires, money is more about keeping score.

After a certain point, you obviously don't need any more money, but a lot of super rich people clearly can't help themselves in trying to accumulate more wealth.

A commonly reiterated finding is that, while having more money can indeed contribute towards a happier life, it only does so to a point. According the the article, Zuckerberg's speculatively worth roughly $6B; if this proves accurate and he gives 90% of that away, he's still sitting on a small fortune. I'd hope that he is capable of figuring out how to make do with "only" $600M or so.

To shape the world.

The big question will be does Zuck's fortune liquify at anywhere near the level that it is now. :)

Buffet's, Gate's and most of the other "big-dog's" hodling can't be liquidated for their Net Worth $ anyway. This story reminds me of Zuck turning down the near Billion $ acquisition offer from Yahoo! To him, its not about the wealth and I like that. Even if he never leaves a multi-billion $ fortune (which I think he will).

Would be better spent donating that money to research. Technology helps way more people than food stamps do.

After much cajoling, I have agreed to accept it.

zuckerberg doesn't even have $10mil cash, let alone billions. it's all on paper.

This is false.

Prove it.

I wouldn't.

This makes it okay that he sells my list of friends to advertisers!

With great wealth, comes great power, and with great power, comes the ability to change the world.

Though I loathe the way he's built Facebook, I trust someone like Zuck with several billion more than I trust someone without the ability to earn it. Who is going to be managing this money, and where is it going? Is this just a pledge, with no strings attached?

The article isn't very forthcoming, and neither is the website: givingpledge.org

I don't understand what's happened with Gates, and though I admire his sentiment, I think putting pressure on young entrepreneurs, who already have thousands of voices in their heads, is a wrong move.

Call me callous, but this whole thing seems insane. Mark can do more good with his money by building new technologies than this fund could do manage multiple billions of dollars. It's rare that money on that scale is managed well.

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