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The Giving Pledge

July 14, 2010 is a site created by Warren Buffett explaining his commitment to give away 99% of his fortune to philanthropy and a call for other wealthy people to do the same. This is an excerpt from the about section:

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.

It fills my heart with  joy to know that there are people in the world, especially one of Mr. Buffett’s stature, who see past the facade of wealth and realize that there are much more gratifying things in life. I also agree with his statements about how much of his good fortune was gained by sheer luck of genetics and geography and that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that he is rich while soldiers and teachers are rewarded modestly. Hopefully, The Giving Pledge will start a positive trend of America’s collective focus shifting from the value in someone’s bank account to the value of their heart, mind and hands.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Carol permalink
    July 14, 2010 12:40 pm

    I love this quote: “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.” Amen, amen, amen! I’m posting that to my blog and to facebook.

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