It would be cynical, presumptuous, petty minded and unfair of me to be cynical about this development. Mark Zuckerberg, the facebook dude, is giving away a shitload of money. About 45 billion dollars worth of facebook stock.
He (and his wife) say they were inspired to do it by the recent birth of their daughter, Max. They realize they want to make the world a better place for her to grow up in.
Fair enough. Becoming a parent is an awesome thing, and it does tend to inspire you and bring your true values into sharp focus. It definitely takes you outside of yourself, and forces you to see things from a different perspective.
So, maybe it’s sincere. I hope so.
A couple of things make me question it. Facebook’s stock is divided into two categories, and he’s keeping the decision making kind. He’s not giving up ownership of facebook or anything. And I’m sure he’s still got a few billion, so he won’t really need to make any lifestyle changes.
Also, the world is full of funds and foundations (the Clinton Foundation, for instance) which are really more about PR than about helping people. Maybe a bit of tax avoidance, too. Goodwill, the Salvation Army and even the Red Cross have come under fire recently for funneling more money into their executive’s pockets than into good deeds.
Zuckerberg and Chan have listed some of the objectives of the charity. Curing diseases sounds good. 45 billion could pay for a lot of research, build a lot of clinics, or get a lot of life saving drugs to people who can’t afford them. Education sounds good, but that can mean anything, really. And community building? What the heck does that mean?
I wish we lived in a world where charity was unnecessary, where people making billions of dollars (and I’m all in favor of there being more of them) paid enough in taxes that everybody could be fed, housed, cared for and educated.
I also suspect that if all the money given by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and all the other insanely wealthy philanthropists was actually spent on making the world a better place, the world would be a better place.
But, who am I to scoff? Mark Zuckerberg has changed the world once before. I use his site every day and so do millions of others. Maybe he will change the world again. It’s certainly a serious chunk of change and he was under no obligation to do it.
So, pay no attention to my cynicism. Let’s, for now, just say thank you and wish him luck.