Monday, September 25, 2006

Can The New Multi-Billionaire Philanthropists Provide Capitalism With An Acceptable Human Face?

... "There has been too much adulation over these new philanthropists for my liking. Are they really becoming more generous? The amount of money the likes of Gates and Buffet have given away is a drop in the ocean for two of the world’s richest men.
Harold Smith, London, UK

Charles Handy: I think you may be a bit churlish! Bill Gates has so far pledged half his money and Warren Buffett most of his. More important are the signals that the new philanthropy sends out - that wealth entails responsibility, that if you are clever or lucky enough to have made piles of the stuff, much more than you need, it is only right to try to spend it on something of benefit to others.

It can seem unfair that if you are successful in other walks of life, teaching or the arts, for instance, you don’t get rich, but if you are successful in business, by the nature of the game you are in, you pile it up. To offset the apparent unfairness of capitalism we need all the evidence we can get that capitalists themselves are not selfish.


Capitalism already has an acceptable human face. It provides new services of value to customers, gives employees work opportunities and provides 30 per cent or more of its receipts to the government. Only a decadent people, who forget the source of wealth creation, would say altruism is needed-in the interests of society. Is poverty in China being eliminated by World Bank officials or economic growth? I’ll take the extra 1 per cent in GNP growth from the private sector any day to help people. The Americans are criticised for their developmental aid spending as a percentage of GNP but when private contributions are included it is very high-like love you have to have it first (earn it) to give it away.
Peter Strupp, Warsaw, Poland

Charles Handy: Absolutely! Capitalism does create wealth of all sorts, and you do have to earn it before you spend it. I am not in any way decrying the value of creating wealth or of building a successful business. I also agree [sic] that all the philanthropy in the world will always be a drop in the ocean compared with government spending.

But there are niches overlooked by governments where individual initiatives can help ...

If capitalism continues to be seen as selfish it will ultimately be brought down by those left outside." ...

Charles Handy "Ask the expert: New philanthropists" Financial Times September 25, 2006 [updated]

Three exclusive private golf courses in Caracas, Venezuela will be expropropriated by the government in order to build housing for thousands of poor and middle class Venezuelans, officials said August 29, 2006.

Photo credit: CBS News. With thanks.


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