Mark Zuckerburg is a billionaire. So is Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and a bunch of other names that top the headlines almost weekly. In fact, the combined wealth of the three richest people in the U.S. – a list that includes Buffet, Gates, and Jeff Bezos – is more than half of the entire country. That’s a staggering number.
It makes sense then, that billionaires would try to give back. Man have already signed the Giving Pledge an informal document that multiple billionaires have signed stating that they will give back half of their salary in or after their lifetime.
However, many people believe that this type of philanthropy is not helping the world, but rather hurting it. In Zuckerburg’s base of operations located in Silicon Valley outside of San Francisco, the housing market is one of the most unequal in the entire world, despite Zuckerburg’s philanthropic efforts. In fact, it could be that the massive amount of wealth generated from the behemoth tech companies is creating a real estate crisis that only the wealthy will survive, creating poverty rather than fighting it.
One of the other factors at play here is the diversion of wealth from state and federally funded welfare projects to tax breaks and incentives for big companies. Money that would go to helping underprivileged kids, for example, is funneled towards landing gigantic companies that lure top talent and generate billions of dollars in revenue, meaning more tax money for the state.
What this essentially creates is a stewardship (and responsibility) for the welfare of the population that is placed firmly on the backs of these billionaires. If they decide to not become philanthropic for whatever reason, there go the resources that millions of people rely on. In fairness, most billionaires are aware of the problem and are actively trying to fix it, but it might be that the same engine that is generating the solution is amplifying the problem.
Some companies even harness the power of philanthropy in their mission, creating what’s called a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as part of their very business mission. It can boost profits with the idea that the money is then diverted to the charities – some of which the company has also established – but that is still reliant on individual businesses. It remains to be seen whether or not this gross inequality will ever begin to reverse course and benefit the mass populace.