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"My Philanthropic Pledge"

 
 
Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 02:48 pm
Quote:
My Philanthropic Pledge
Warren Buffett

In 2006, I made a commitment to gradually give all of my Berkshire Hathaway stock to philanthropic foundations. I couldn't be happier with that decision.

Now, Bill and Melinda Gates and I are asking hundreds of rich Americans to pledge at least 50% of their wealth to charity. So I think it is fitting that I reiterate my intentions and explain the thinking that lies behind them.

First, my pledge: More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day.

Millions of people who regularly contribute to churches, schools, and other organizations thereby relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. The dollars these people drop into a collection plate or give to United Way mean forgone movies, dinners out, or other personal pleasures. In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge.

Moreover, this pledge does not leave me contributing the most precious asset, which is time. Many people, including -- I'm proud to say -- my three children, give extensively of their own time and talents to help others. Gifts of this kind often prove far more valuable than money. A struggling child, befriended and nurtured by a caring mentor, receives a gift whose value far exceeds what can be bestowed by a check. My sister, Doris, extends significant person-to-person help daily. I've done little of this.

What I can do, however, is to take a pile of Berkshire Hathaway stock certificates -- "claim checks" that when converted to cash can command far-ranging resources -- and commit them to benefit others who, through the luck of the draw, have received the short straws in life. To date about 20% of my shares have been distributed (including shares given by my late wife, Susan Buffett). I will continue to annually distribute about 4% of the shares I retain. At the latest, the proceeds from all of my Berkshire shares will be expended for philanthropic purposes by 10 years after my estate is settled. Nothing will go to endowments; I want the money spent on current needs.

This pledge will leave my lifestyle untouched and that of my children as well. They have already received significant sums for their personal use and will receive more in the future. They live comfortable and productive lives. And I will continue to live in a manner that gives me everything that I could possibly want in life.

Some material things make my life more enjoyable; many, however, would not. I like having an expensive private plane, but owning a half-dozen homes would be a burden. Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends.

My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest. Both my children and I won what I call the ovarian lottery. (For starters, the odds against my 1930 birth taking place in the U.S. were at least 30 to 1. My being male and white also removed huge obstacles that a majority of Americans then faced.)

My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I've worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate's distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.

The reaction of my family and me to our extraordinary good fortune is not guilt, but rather gratitude. Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others. That reality sets an obvious course for me and my family: Keep all we can conceivably need and distribute the rest to society, for its needs. My pledge starts us down that course.


Here is an interview with Charlie Rose about the Giving Pledge:

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11063
 
JTT
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 03:13 pm
Not long, but that's a nice thread, Robert.
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talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 03:21 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Now the trick is to get Wall Street to give a similar pledge.
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Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 03:39 pm
@Robert Gentel,
While Buffet's pledge is nothing to sneeze or sneer at, there is one section in it that puts things into some perspective:

Quote:
This pledge will leave my lifestyle untouched and that of my children as well. They have already received significant sums for their personal use and will receive more in the future. They live comfortable and productive lives. And I will continue to live in a manner that gives me everything that I could possibly want in life.

Some material things make my life more enjoyable; many, however, would not. I like having an expensive private plane, but owning a half-dozen homes would be a burden. Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends.


An expensive private plane is part of the lifestyle that will remain untouched and how many people can afford one of them? He thinks six homes would be a burden, but does he think two or three are? Is one that is simply 15,000 square feet a burden or an excessive possesion?

Based on conservative estimates of what he's worth, retaining 1% of his wealth will still leave him with $100 million, and as he points out, the full 99% won't be donated until the end of his life.

I don't think Buffet is a hypocrite or a charlatan. Giving up 99% of one's wealth is generous regardless of how much you're left with, and I'm glad to see that he is not so unhinged that he believes he needs 100% of his almost unimaginable wealth in his last years on earth or after his death.

However, I don't see it, in any way, as a personal sacrifice. Then again I don't think he does either. It's more a demonstration of his sanity than anything else.
sozobe
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 03:45 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
I agree with that.

I think sharing his sanity is a good thing, and I think there are plenty of super-rich people who are not as sane. If they go ahead and follow his example too, that'd be great.
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Robert Gentel
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 04:06 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
However, I don't see it, in any way, as a personal sacrifice. Then again I don't think he does either. It's more a demonstration of his sanity than anything else.


Exactly, he himself is pointing out how his philanthropy doesn't represent a personal sacrifice even though it is extraordinary in monetary terms. I like the guy a lot, he's got a well-grounded perspective on his wealth (including the birth lottery that he won) that I admire.
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failures art
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 04:16 pm
This is something quite different than the trickle down theory. More like Noah's flood.

A
R
T
Finn dAbuzz
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 05:04 pm
@failures art,
Like Robert, I like Warren Buffet. He's damned smart and far more humble than one might reasonably expect from someone who has achieved such fabulous success, but I get a kick out how he's become the Left's favorite capitalist pig.

Your comment, not Robert's, demonstrates this by taking an obvious swipe at the "trickle down" concept of capitalist wealth sharing.

Make no mistake, Buffet is a capitalist through and through. He believes in the effectiveness of markets and has made an enormous amount of money understanding how they work.

He hasn't reached a point in his life where he regrets that he's spent most of his life stealing from the less fortunate, and until fairly recently and towards the end of his long and productive life he appreciates that he can't take it with him, and that to try and do so would be insane.

However, 20 years ago when he was a very wealthy man, he didn't pledge to give up 99% of his wealth and I assure you he believed in the societal benefits of capitalism.
chai2
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 05:26 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:

He hasn't reached a point in his life where he regrets that he's spent most of his life stealing from the less fortunate, and until fairly recently and towards the end of his long and productive life he appreciates that he can't take it with him, and that to try and do so would be insane.



How do you feel he was stealing?
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Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 05:51 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
I think you both are making this a left/right issue when it isn't a left/right issue at all.
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dlowan
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 06:29 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Wow.

I don't care about what it does/doesn't do to the life-style of the very rich, or any politics to it.

(I don't know who Warren Buffet is...though I'll find out now.)

I think doing (and contrary to what I generally think about good deeds) PUBLICISING such a decision is a net good. Hopefully this encourages more of the mega rich to do the same.

I know many DO, already, give money....but this is at sort of a different scale.

Edit:

Doh...I might as well have just said "what Soz said."



0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 06:43 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
However, 20 years ago when he was a very wealthy man, he didn't pledge to give up 99% of his wealth and I assure you he believed in the societal benefits of capitalism.


Twenty years ago he wasn't done playing with it. I would do it the same way: use the wealth as a tool (to grow it) and give it away when I'm done building.
dlowan
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 06:49 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I guess the question becomes: "How do you know when you have finished playing/building?"
Robert Gentel
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 06:51 pm
@dlowan,
In my case I would leave preparations for a premature exit but the rest would be a matter of whether I still thought I could build and whether I was still having fun (make it play).

I suspect I'd be the type to do it late in life.
ehBeth
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 06:59 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
but I get a kick out how he's become the Left's favorite capitalist pig.


<snip>

he believed in the societal benefits of capitalism.


the U. S. left are still capitalists, so it makes sense they'd have a favourite capitalist pig

he still believes in the societal benefits of capitalism. not sure why you think or suggest otherwise
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failures art
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jun, 2010 07:40 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
You joyless hack, learn to relax. It was a joke. Remove the spring from your ass, and stop trying to jump out of your seat when ever you see a liberal say anything.

This isn't an example of trickle down. I was having sport with it. Grow a sense of humor.

A
R
T
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Thomas
 
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Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 12:39 am
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn d'Abuzz wrote:
However, 20 years ago when he was a very wealthy man, he didn't pledge to give up 99% of his wealth and I assure you he believed in the societal benefits of capitalism.

Everybody in this thread believes in the social benefits of capitalism. The only disagreement is, how much capitalism?

***

Warren Buffet is definitely my favorite billionaire. No, actually it's a tie between him and Ingmar Kamprad, the founder and owner of Ikea.
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dlowan
 
  3  
Reply Fri 18 Jun, 2010 04:06 am
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:

In my case I would leave preparations for a premature exit but the rest would be a matter of whether I still thought I could build and whether I was still having fun (make it play).

I suspect I'd be the type to do it late in life.


Quite.

I suspect you'll be the type to be still playing, ordering the latest great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grand most newest whizz gizmolet of the current whizz gizmo that you currently most wish for and expressing great impatience that it hasn't arrived .0188877676th of a milli-second after you ordered it sent through the transporter to you, while tinkering with the SEO (whatever that has turned into) features of your latest forum (whatever THAT has turned into) while playing 3D multi-tier chess with five players from other planets and swinging an axe because you have listened to THAT symphony again while dictating orders to your minions to fix the finest details on the prospectii for your 5,000 companies and simultaneously having a ferocious debate with a dualist when you're 189, in diapers, reliant upon anti-grav units to move, taking your alcohol (vodka, perhaps?) through a nose tube, on your 14th bionic Mr Happy, have an external heart pump and die from bumping your head manically dancing upon a table and have as your last thought that you never really managed to get enough done, dammit.


And that'll be your premature death.


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