Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Americans have a few national quirks, the patriotic Scrapbook is willing to concede, and one of them is the assumption that people who have made great piles of money in life—Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, H. Ross Perot, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett—have something worthwhile to say on other subjects. The latest example of this common misapprehension comes from the lips of billionaire industrialist Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft.
In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Mr. Gates expressed an interesting philosophy of philanthropy:
Quoting from an argument advanced by moral philosopher Peter Singer, for instance, he questions why anyone would donate money to build a new wing for a museum rather than spending it on preventing illnesses that can lead to blindness. “The moral equivalent is, we’re going to take one percent of the people who visit this [museum] and blind them,” he says.
In truth, of course, The Scrapbook questions why anyone would take moral guidance from “moral philosopher” Peter Singer, a well-known proponent of mass euthanasia. But we digress. If we read him correctly, Bill Gates seems to believe that there is some direct moral correlation between the human condition—including the fact that people suffer in the world—and the expression of human genius. Or put another way: Every penny spent to erect a cathedral, or compose a symphony, or “build a new wing for a museum,” is one less penny for people who suffer from “illnesses that can lead to blindness.”
Bill Gates, of course, is entitled to his opinion, although The Scrapbook wouldn’t wish to live in some utopia without museums, archives, libraries, concert halls, equestrian statues, or ecclesiastical structures. Nor do we accept his notion of moral equivalence. Indeed, there may be people—well, one, anyway—whose hearts are gladdened not by the Taj Mahal, or a Hopper painting, or Chopin nocturne, but the sight of Microsoft Corporation headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
Yet it seems evident, to The Scrapbook at least, that if resources were withheld from symbols of human achievement (distinguished buildings, great museums, well-stocked libraries) unless and until the traditional human scourges (poverty, disease, tyranny) were eradicated, we would inhabit a sterile, oppressive, dystopian world.
A world, by the way, very much unlike the comfortable principality that Bill Gates’s billions have bought him, Mrs. Gates, and their three children: a house worth well in excess of $125 million, with a thousand-square-foot dining room, a 60-foot swimming pool with underwater music system, and a private library featuring its own curator, the Codex Leicester—and most recently, the acquisition of a volume of Leonardo da Vinci manuscripts (price: $30.8 million). The Scrapbook cannot imagine how many people went blind to buy that one.
2:59 PM, Apr 12, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
"The Bidens contributed $7,190 to charity in 2012," the White House revealed today. A look at the Bidens joint filing reveals that $2,000 of that donation was in the form of "donated property" given to Goodwill in Wilmington, Delaware.
Here's the relevant form, from the Bidens' tax return:
1:53 PM, Apr 12, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
This year, Joe and Jill Biden increased their charitable donations from 1.5 percent of their income to 1.87 percent.
2:49 PM, Apr 4, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
John Kerry, who is worth an estimated $198.65 million, will donate $9,175 because of the so-called sequestration.
"A day after Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said they'd return 5 percent of their paycheck to the Treasury, Secretary of State John Kerry followed in somewhat similar fashion," the Huffington Post reports.
A modest proposal.Mar 11, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 25 • By CHARLES WOLF JR.
Nonprofit organizations (NPO), often referred to as the “independent sector,” are an essential part of America’s vibrant, pluralistic civil society. Their activities span a wide range of public and private purposes—philanthropic, cultural, religious, professional, educational, scientific. The public as well as private interests that NPOs represent add vitality as well as fractiousness to American society.
Properly understood Jan 14, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 17 • By GERTRUDE HIMMELFARB
Defeat, like death, concentrates the mind wonderfully. It also liberates the mind. People venture to think the unthinkable, or at least, the impermissible. A new generation of conservatives may be moved to reconsider some ideas that have fallen into disuse or even disrepute. Compassion is one such idea.
The good works done by Christians after the 2008 earthquake have led Beijing to ease up on private philanthropy Dec 3, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 12 • By JILLIAN KAY MELCHIOR
The day after Long Cai Bin was baptized, an earthquake destroyed his hometown. But it might have opened his country to his faith.
Nov 12, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 09 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook notes, with some amusement, that George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars franchise, sold his lucrative Lucasfilm enterprise last week to the Disney Company, which announced in turn that it intends to revive and extend the Star Wars saga. We leave it to the experts to judge whether this cinematic/economic event is a cultural landmark, or a sign that the Disney empire (like Lucasfilm) has finally run out of fresh ideas.
8:34 AM, Sep 24, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
The release of Mitt Romney’s 2011 tax returns shows that he freely gave away more than $4 million to charity last year (about 30 percent of his income). In comparison, when Joe Biden was first running for vice president, his tax returns showed that he had given away just $3,690 to charity over the previous ten years (about 0.2 percent of his income). In other words, Romney gave away a thousand times as much to charity in one year as Biden gave in a decade.
6:03 PM, Feb 27, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
A few months ago, when President Obama proposed to restrict the deductibility of charitable contributions made by relatively well-off Americans, I asked why Obama is so opposed to having money go directly to the needy, rather than having it first be filtered through the government.