02 December 2015

Rule Number 1: Mark Zuckerberg Leaves a Trail of People Who Feel that he Cheated Them in His Wake

Rule Number 2:  See rule number 1.

As such, I am dubious of Mark Zuckerberg's pledge to donate 99% of his Facebook fortune to charity:
In a public post on Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced Tuesday that they will donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares "during their lives"—an amount currently worth $45 billion—to their new charity, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

The organization, which seems to be modeled on the Gates Foundation, states its laudable albeit vague goal to “join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation.”

The announcement came in the form of a public letter to their newly born daughter Max. It addresses important long-term goals that are often stymied in the public sector, things like “advancing human potential and promoting equality.”
But when one dives into the details, it gets seriously hinky on closer examination:
When Mark Zuckerberg announced he would give away 99% of his Facebook shares — currently worth around $45 billion — the initial impulse from many was to assume the money would all go to charity. Indeed, very many news organizations described the donation as either going to charity, or a charitable trust.

Not so, a Facebook spokeswoman confirmed in an email to BuzzFeed News. The spokeswoman further confirmed the initiative is structured as an LLC, and not as a charitable trust.

While charity will certainly be one of the money’s destinations, it will be far from the only one.
It's beginning to look more and more like a way to avoid income and inheritance taxes than anything else.

I would also argue that relying on the altruism of today's robber barons is misguided, and  notes, so does German billionaire Peter Krämer:
SPIEGEL: Forty super wealthy Americans have just announced that they would donate half of their assets, at the very latest after their deaths. As a person who often likes to say that rich people should be asked to contribute more to society, what were your first thoughts?

Krämer: I find the US initiative highly problematic. You can write donations off in your taxes to a large degree in the USA. So the rich make a choice: Would I rather donate or pay taxes? The donors are taking the place of the state. That's unacceptable.

SPIEGEL: But doesn't the money that is donated serve the common good?

Krämer: It is all just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires. So it's not the state that determines what is good for the people, but rather the rich want to decide. That's a development that I find really bad. What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?

SPIEGEL: It is their money at the end of the day.

Krämer: In this case, 40 superwealthy people want to decide what their money will be used for. That runs counter to the democratically legitimate state. In the end the billionaires are indulging in hobbies that might be in the common good, but are very personal.
 Your mouth to God's ear, Herr Krämer.


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