The billionaires just won’t give

Justin Horwath

Americans have always been of two minds regarding capitalism.  There’s one point of view that sees only the worst of our economic systems.  To them, the upper class has always been trampling down the working class and today’s CEOs as just the most recent incarnation of the robber barons of a hundred years ago.  It is a story of vast, extravagant wealth created by depriving workers of a fair wage and hospitable working conditions. 

The other view of capitalism sees the creation of wealth as an opportunity to give something back to society.  Despite being called “robber barons” the industrialists of a hundred years ago left an impressive legacy to future generations: John Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Leland Stanford all created universities which even today remain top centers of learning.  Andrew Carnegie, among other things, donated money to build over 1,600 public libraries, many of which still serve the public today.   

This second of capitalism is buried today under the seemingly endless stories of corporate greed and extravagance.   But, the wealthy can still put their vast fortunes towards the public good and give something back to the rest of society.  Recently Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have begun a campaign call “The Giving Pledge.” Its aim is simply to “invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations.”   

So far 40 of America’s 403 billionaires have taken up this challenge.  At a time when the American economy has stalled, more of America’s most wealthy should take this pledge.  By making their donations wisely, not only can they reassure the average American that corporate profits are only created for selfish ends, but they can also make investments that will still be making our country a better place a hundred years from now.