As 2014 begins, our Facebook feeds are filling up with campaigns against poverty, inequality; injustice. With petitions getting signed, billions of dollars of aid being donated to various charities and programs; 2014 is set to be a record year of philanthropy.
The world of 2014 is filled with non-profits starting up, the young signing petitions, and oddly enough, this year is also filled with inspiring billionaires—billionaires who are changing the face of philanthropy, and re-imagining how the wealthiest 1% use their wealth.
Wealth Disparity and the 85 Richest People
An extension of the figures that Occupy Wall Street’s movement sent out about 1% of the world having more wealth than the other 99%, the fact that 85 people in the world control more wealth than 3.5 Billion of the world’s poorest people, is staggering.
Oxfam, an NGO working to reduce poverty and injustice, found through a recent report that most of the world’s rich have become richer at a far greater rate than any other class of citizens. Oxfam asserts that the world’s elite do this in a measured way, using their influence to skew the economic system in their favor. In the summary of the report, Oxfam asserts that, “inequality is impacting social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale,” noting as well that unless inequality is combated, the world’s poor will stay poor.
The richest 85:
Going Against the Billionaire-Grain
Yet, there are those going against the grain of the world’s wealthiest, who are using their influence in a positive way. Some of those on this list include Warren Buffet, and Bill and Melinda Gates. They, respectively, are at #4 and #1, on the list of world’s richest people with a net worth of just under $54 billion for Buffet, and $67 billion for Gates.
Buffet has started to do the opposite of what many of the world’s richest are doing—giving away 99% of his wealth to philanthropic institutions. He has pledged for all of his money to reach charitable institutions upon his death and has already committed 20% of his wealth so far.
Gates has done the same, pledging to donate 95% of his net worth. While software used to be Gates’s expertise, philanthropy and charitable giving have become his focus.
Bill Gates and his wife founded the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in 1990, working on far-reaching projects that focus on global health and preventable diseases, as well as global development and the creation of sustained agriculture, family planning and other such projects.
Far from this being abnormal or uncomfortable to either Gates’s, or Buffet’s lifestyle, Buffet makes the distinction between what he is doing and what the average person does through their own charitable giving. While some may give their time to organizations, such as mentoring kids, working a soup kitchen, or giving some of their monthly wage to charity; Buffet is only giving away his money, something that he feels is hardly the same.
Says Buffet, “In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge,” continuing with, “Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced.”
The Giving Pledge
This is a growing trend. The Gates’ have committed 95% of their wealth and Buffet—99%, but the list goes on. The Giving Pledge is an organization consisting of billionaire members who have pledged over 50% of their net worth to wealth to philanthropic causes—many give far more. The list includes company owners, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The list includes 115 billionaires and their net worth is over a half trillion dollars. As CBS reports, these pledgers are tackling efforts ranging from “unemployment in South Africa, early detection and treatment of brain cancer, and some interests that take on a more political tone: tax reform in California and the national debt.”
Despite the wide array of ways the money will be used, the sentiment is the same: the vast amount of money made by these pledgers will go to waste unless it is used to better humankind.
Says Buffet, “Incremental wealth, adding to the wealth they have now has no real utility to them. But that wealth has incredible utility to other people. It can educate children, it can vaccinate children. It can do all kinds of things.”
Where will you invest your time? Where will you invest your money? The 1% may be starting to wake up, now what about you—the other 99%? Comment below on what you want to change in 2014, and how you hope to be a part of that change.