Mark Zuckerberg follows in Gates footsteps
December 1, 2015 4:14 PM   Subscribe

Mark Zuckerberg announced that he is giving 99% of his Facebook stock to charity.

"We know this is a small contribution compared to all the resources and talents of those already working on these issues. But we want to do what we can, working alongside many others."
posted by el io (203 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Like.
posted by ColdChef at 4:15 PM on December 1, 2015 [19 favorites]


He's keeping the google shares, though.
posted by valkane at 4:17 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wait, he's still rich? Well, that negates everything! Fuck you for giving away double digit billions, asshole!
posted by cmoj at 4:21 PM on December 1, 2015 [16 favorites]


I've heard of parenthood changing people, but this was more than I expected.
posted by Sequence at 4:31 PM on December 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


The billionaire Facebook founder and chief executive and his physician wife pledged to give away 99% of their Facebook shares in their lifetime...

Something tells me his R&D department must have somehow stumbled upon the secret of immortality.
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:32 PM on December 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


Gawker (I know) is less than sanguine.

That billionaires are shaming each other into more philanthropy is a good thing, I think. Helping charities help people is a good thing to do.

But I also can't help but think that it also reflects a failing of so many of our modern nation-states to perform one of their fundamental (in my view, at least) responsibilities: promoting and ensuring human welfare. But so it goes, and you know, like they say: the perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the good.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:33 PM on December 1, 2015 [105 favorites]


I think that's fantastic, but what's amazing is that the remaining 1% of the $45 billion is still $450 million!
posted by dabug at 4:33 PM on December 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


Is "Charity" the name of a Cayman islands tax shelter?
posted by FallowKing at 4:35 PM on December 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm just going to gently point out that Dr. Priscilla Chen also deserves a pat on the back here.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:36 PM on December 1, 2015 [107 favorites]


Yeah a tech commenter I follow on twitter was saying something sarcastic to the effect of "doesn't matter how I made my billions as long as I give it away in a grand PR gesture" and that was such an unpleasant trip back to mid 90's knee-jerk cynicism.

Like whatever you think of the dude, he changed the world once in his lifetime, and now he's aiming to change it again. And I think this time actually has potential to be unambivalently positive.

Like no lazy tweet is going to change that my bros
posted by danny the boy at 4:37 PM on December 1, 2015 [30 favorites]


Is it wrong that my immediate reaction to this (ostensibly charitable and good) act is to think 'okay asshole, but how do you benefit and what's the catch'?
posted by litleozy at 4:42 PM on December 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


Great, one more facebook post about somebody doing something cool, and a picture of their baby, just what I needed.

"Yes, Mom, I heard about Mark and Priscilla. No, I don't think I'll be donating $45 billion to charity anytime soon. WHEN I'M READY GEEZ."
posted by officer_fred at 4:43 PM on December 1, 2015 [44 favorites]


Sorry for being cynical, but I feel like this is now the "in thing" to do for billionaires. I'd honestly be far more impressed if Facebook announced that they were now going to pay their users for all that sweet sweet personal data that they get for free.
posted by longdaysjourney at 4:44 PM on December 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's cool and all, but common welfare shouldn't be beholden to the benevolence of wealthy men.
posted by um at 4:45 PM on December 1, 2015 [160 favorites]


It's an amazing gesture and one I find remarkable to come from someone as young as Chen and Zuckerberg. One disturbing thing about the 1996–2005 tech boom era is how few of the megabillionaires have been moved to grand philanthropic gestures. Bill Gates dedication to charity has helped move the needle a lot and Zuckerberg's plan is a remarkable follow-on.

Of course people immediately come with the knee-jerk cynicism. Shame on you. If you want to see what this kind of wealth can accomplish, please look at what the Gates Foundation has done since 1997.
posted by Nelson at 4:45 PM on December 1, 2015 [45 favorites]


So, what's the problem?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:45 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is it wrong that my immediate reaction to this (ostensibly charitable and good) act is to think 'okay asshole, but how do you benefit and what's the catch'?

I presume this was an initial reaction to Bill Gates initial announcement of his philanthropy work as well. He was a renowned vicious business man, and it seemed so out of character given his previous life at Microsoft.

I imagine it'll take Zuckerberg a few years to gain a reputation as a human being as well. These perception changes don't happen overnight.

This was the reason for the post title, actually.
posted by el io at 4:47 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Give what Facebook has done for privacy, the only way Zuckerberg gets any sort of credit from me is if he gives every dime to the EFF.
posted by eriko at 4:47 PM on December 1, 2015 [22 favorites]


I approve of this decision.
posted by gwint at 4:48 PM on December 1, 2015


I'm okay with billionaires deciding that $450M is enough for them to live on just because it's the cool thing to do in the billionaire club.

I'm somewhat interested in how they're managing to give away 99% of their shares while keeping the voting rights associated with that stock, and how they had to specify 'no more than $1B per year for the next three years' in order to keep investors happy. Like, it seems really complicated to give away 44.5 Billion Dollars.
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:48 PM on December 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Whatever y'all are talking about, the fact that Zuckerberg said this is so deeply important:

"If you fear you'll go to prison rather than college because of the color of your skin, or that your family will be deported because of your legal status, or that you may be a victim of violence because of your religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, then it's difficult to reach your full potential."

The fact that $45 billion is going to be given away to support efforts to struggle against systematic racism, prejudice, and other efforts is impressive to me. He put the major issues of now so succinctly. I know that the charity industry is also exploitative and full of failure, but it's really nice to hear a statement like that. I look forward to seeing what is done in the future.
posted by yueliang at 4:49 PM on December 1, 2015 [121 favorites]


yeah el io that's totally fair and you're right - decision worth taking face value as good (perfect is the enemy of etc)
posted by litleozy at 4:49 PM on December 1, 2015


Call me sort of cynical. But I trust Bill Gates more than I trust Mark Zuckerberg. Why? Because Gates resonates with me. Nerd done well. Zuckerberg feels more like, "Better look good or I might be in trouble."

No sense there. Just feels.
posted by Splunge at 4:50 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm quite confused with a lot of the reactions here. Yes, he is probably richer than the entire Metafilter userbase combined. Yes, he got that money by making a questionable but wildly popular social media platform. Sure, in a perfect world we wouldn't need charities. But what better use can you come up with for $45 billion besides give it to people prepared to use it to make the world a better place? So far it seems people here have variations of "Pay me personally" and "Pay his taxes like a good American" which both leave much to be desired.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:51 PM on December 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


You say knee-jerk cynicism, I say healthy skepticism.

He's "donating" the money to his own foundation. Maybe, like the Gates with malaria, they'll find a tangible cause that can actually be helped by throwing money at it. Maybe it will will fritter money away trying to solve "inequality" through software engineering. Who knows! But I guess it's knee-jerk cynicism to wait to see where the money actually goes before standing up and applauding.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 4:53 PM on December 1, 2015 [39 favorites]


I love the idea that he looked into his daughter's eyes and thought 'you know what, I could give her billions of dollars or I could give her a better world to live in' and then went with the better world. I'm sure there's more planning that went into it and the timing is PR more than reality, but it's still a heartwarming thought.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:54 PM on December 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


I don't see what's confusing. It's not really hard:

It's good that he's giving this money to a good cause.

It's bad that we live in a system that accumulates this much wealth into so few hands, leaving us with few options but to hope that some of those hands belong to benevolent people.
posted by tocts at 4:55 PM on December 1, 2015 [107 favorites]


'The Gospel of Wealth'
By Andrew Carnegie.
posted by clavdivs at 4:57 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm somewhat interested in how they're managing to give away 99% of their shares while keeping the voting rights associated with that stock, and how they had to specify 'no more than $1B per year for the next three years' in order to keep investors happy. Like, it seems really complicated to give away 44.5 Billion Dollars.

He's only giving away $1 billion worth per year, and he owns a special share class that has 10x the voting power of normal shares. They turn into normal voting power shares once he sells them. Also, he controls shares through proxy, taking his voting power up to 60% according to this recent Bloomberg article. So he will probably retain majority voting control for "the forseeable future" indeed.
posted by pravit at 4:58 PM on December 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Zuck's 45 billion will surely do much more good than the nit-picking snideness of pseudonymous internet commenting.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:59 PM on December 1, 2015 [47 favorites]


I mean, if I'm honest even the deification of Gates worries me - he made his money in part through (ultimately illegally) abuse of monopoly. Sure he didn't shoot people but he shot businesses (netscape etc) and us consumers by playing dirty. Perhaps now we have a better sense of his fuller character, but to me there's a worrying trend here: get rich dirtily (Zuckerberg made his money by making the internet a worse place and selling us to advertisers) then pay yourself clean.

It's modern day buying of indulgences.

Money is nice though and I don't want to diminish the impact- any business harm by Gates is overshadowed by his charity work good.
posted by litleozy at 4:59 PM on December 1, 2015 [29 favorites]


Say what you like about Zuckerberg, dude has an awesome dog. (Yes, this is an actual photograph of his actual dog.)

Also, charity is good.
posted by trip and a half at 5:00 PM on December 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


a sentiment on twitter I saw: "or you know, you could make sure FB (and yourself) actually like, pay their taxes."

I do applaud the sentiment and hope the money does good though.
posted by M Edward at 5:00 PM on December 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


Just a bit tacky to announce on the day your daughter is born?
posted by repoman at 5:01 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I sure wish I could only give away one billion a year. Everything is such shit right now, so I'm going to silver lining the hell out of this.
posted by Ruki at 5:03 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just a bit tacky to announce on the day your daughter is born?

Did you see that letter 'they' wrote to her? For her sake, I hope there's a tl;dr of that thing somewhere
posted by trip and a half at 5:04 PM on December 1, 2015


What if they divorce first?
posted by Fupped Duck at 5:06 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Give what Facebook has done for privacy, the only way Zuckerberg gets any sort of credit from me is if he gives every dime to the EFF.

Yeah it was totally shitty of him to send a goon to my house to hold a gun to my head to force me to look at pictures of my mom's cat.
posted by danny the boy at 5:07 PM on December 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


Dear Mark, please earmark at least 10% of this to permananently campaign for higher taxes on the rich in the United States. Democratic financial control over capital, including the minimization of capital concentration, is a public good that exceeds charitable benefits. Thank you.
posted by mwhybark at 5:10 PM on December 1, 2015 [36 favorites]


Yeah, I saw it and still think the whole thing is tacky.
posted by repoman at 5:11 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also - I don't want to give him too much credit because even after giving away 99% he will still be richer than any of us can hope to be in our lifetimes - but still, that's a pretty good thing he's doing. I mean on a scale of 1 to 10, that's like, a 6.5 in "this makes you a good person", but the point is the sheer impact of those dollars. Like yes, in an ideal world we would all ( I mean ALL of us, not just people in our own country ) live comfortable lives and there wouldn't be massive inequality, but the fact is there is, and him getting rich and giving away those $45 billion will do more good for the world than 10 million people not getting rich and only donating $1,000 each to charity. 4.5x more, in fact.

The other thing is...he's not doing this all instantaneously...so the actual amount in dollars that gets donated might be way different depending on the vagaries of the market.
posted by pravit at 5:12 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sorry for being cynical, but I feel like this is now the "in thing" to do for billionaires.

I would much rather live in the world where the in thing for billionaires to do is to give away their money than in the world where the in thing for them to do is to keep it.
posted by Itaxpica at 5:14 PM on December 1, 2015 [38 favorites]


Dear Mark, please earmark at least 10% of this to permananently campaign for higher taxes on the rich in the United States.

You'd rather billions go towards sending drones to kill brown people than for it to fight for social justice at home? Like I get that we have to do the whole eat-the-rich thing here on metafilter, but the practical consequence of what you're suggesting isn't actually better than the actual reality we live in.
posted by danny the boy at 5:15 PM on December 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


a sentiment on twitter I saw: "or you know, you could make sure FB (and yourself) actually like, pay their taxes."

On the other hand, I imagine Zuckerberg plans to spend very little of this money on murder robots to murder people for being subjects of the wrong government.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:16 PM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nice try Suckerberg! My goodwill costs way more than $45 billion! I win again!
posted by vorpal bunny at 5:17 PM on December 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


Sorry for being cynical, but I feel like this is now the "in thing" to do for billionaires.

Thank goodness.
posted by bunderful at 5:19 PM on December 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


The story arc of Zuckerberg is now something like this:

Guy (with others) sits in dorm room and comes up with an Internet way to play "hot or not"

Guy sees this thing is pretty popular. Guy sees massive douchebag potential.

Guy sheds off other douchebag friends to seize the facebook ring of power, attracts funding

Guy does everything in power to grow facebook, starts getting rich off of speculation money

Guy figures out advertising based upon complicated douchebag algorithm that feeds on the souls of children and the infirm

Guy sells dubious advertising space to idiot company executives that are hoping and praying that they'll convince the board to approve that massive bonus - Guy makes billions off of said idiots, and said idiots do pretty well too, except they are jealous of Guy who "didn't earn his money"

Guy makes even more billions off of more idiots who look at the idiots buying idiot advertising space on Facebook to sell douchebags to douchebags and latest idiots feel they need to get in on the action - everyone's a winner

Guy gets married, has a kid, and then says SURPRISE! I'm giving away my money to make the world a better place. My entire LIFE has been a quest to be a big enough douchebag to predate on other douchebags just enough to make idiots give me money.

GUY ANNOUNCES HE IS FUCKING ROBIN HOOD.

And we dance like merry men in the forest - while posting pictures on Facebook.

I think those are pretty much the facts as I read them here and on Wikipedia. I kind of like that all of these really soul crushing technologies we are all addicted to are sucking money from the rich only to make a lot of new rich people and just a few poor people happier...someday...maybe...but no faster than $1 billion a year for the first three years because, man, let's not tank that douchebag factory idiot-sucking company stock.
posted by Muddler at 5:21 PM on December 1, 2015 [33 favorites]



I would much rather live in the world where the in thing for billionaires to do is to give away their money than in the world where the in thing for them to do is to keep it.


In all seriousness, I would much rather live in a world where the companies these billionaires run act like they give a shit about the communities they operate in and pay their taxes.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:23 PM on December 1, 2015 [17 favorites]


Let's hope his foundation has a a better idea what do with the money this time. And he also spent a fair bit of money advocating for oil drilling in ANWR and for Keystone XL through a political group he funded .

I'd also note that for all the wonderful work the Gates Foundation has done in fighting malaria and bringing in potable water, work which has saved countless lives and improved countless more, they have also poured a lot of money into the "market-based" version of education reform and the use of standardized tests as metrics for teacher performance and pay.

Their definition of social justice may not be the one you have in mind.
posted by kewb at 5:24 PM on December 1, 2015 [68 favorites]


Well that sounds like a much nicer story than,

"Guy hears about other guy who donates 45 billion dollars to making the world a better place, reacts by calling him a douchebag"
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:25 PM on December 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


So, what's the problem?

That these people NAMED THEIR DAUGHTER MAX. Way to bury the lede, Zuckerberg! At least tell me it's short for Maxine or Maxanne or Maxarella or something.
posted by Flannery Culp at 5:26 PM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


His wife's named Priscilla? Really? Freaky coincidence.
posted by jonmc at 5:29 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Zuck's 45 billion will surely do much more good than the nit-picking snideness of pseudonymous internet commenting.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:59 PM on December 1 [5 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


Hey now some of us have moved on from the nit-picking snideness of pseudonymous internet commenting to the calls-to-property-destruction lunacy of pseudonymous internet commenting. get with the times.

but yeah my god I hope this is real. Not real as in "Mark Zuckerberg really means it and he's a changed man and blah blah," because I don't care about Mark Zuckerberg. He's not important to me. The money he's been holding, on the other hand, is very important indeed. I'm gladdened that he has said he'll release it and I hope he releases it sooner rather than later.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:30 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I kind of like that all of these really soul crushing technologies we are all addicted to...

Speak for yourself. I don't have a Facebook account. I'm pretty happy about this. I'd suggest you do the same, but it probably won't convince you.

Now, back to my game of Candy Crush.
posted by el io at 5:33 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Let's also be clear here, while giving away wealth is truly a good thing that should be encouraged, it is also a reaction taken after accumulating wealth, the justification for which, and the dispensation of, was given by Andrew Carnegie in 1889. Following is philosophies, rich people are justified in becoming obscenely wealthy because they know better how to spend money than poor people that might use it for daily life, not grand things. Hence, tons of libraries we remember, not the nameless poor that died impoverished building his wealth.

There remains, then, only one mode of using great fortunes; but in this we have the true antidote for the temporary unequal distribution of wealth, the reconciliation of the rich and the poor--a reign of harmony--another ideal, differing, indeed, from that of the Communist in requiring only the further evolution of existing conditions, not the total overthrow of our civilization. It is founded upon the present most intense individualism, and the race is projected to put it in practice by degree whenever it pleases. Under its sway we shall have an ideal state, in which the surplus wealth of the few will become, in the best sense the property of the many, because administered for the common good, and this wealth, passing through the hands of the few, can be made a much more potent force for the elevation of our race than if it had been distributed in small sums to the people themselves. Even the poorest can be made to see this, and to agree that great sums gathered by some of their fellow-citizens and spent for public purposes, from which the masses reap the principal benefit, are more valuable to them than if scattered among them through the course of many years in trifling amounts.
posted by Muddler at 5:34 PM on December 1, 2015 [25 favorites]


Their definition of social justice may not be the one you have in mind.

No kidding. I'm 100% OK with that. Both Gates and Zuckerberg appear to be hands-on philanthropists, they are spending their money on the things they think are important and they are administering it in the way they think is best. I won't agree with all of what they do. But I might agree with some of it. And I don't see it as some humble act, as some charity is (particularly Christian charity). Still it beats spending the money on superyacht races and Hawaiian islands.
posted by Nelson at 5:36 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not trying to be grand or anything, but I should be in bed as it's past 1.30am here (UK), but saw this and felt compelled to read (and at is seems, to write...).

It so happens that I've just come back from a Xmas Rotary dinner.
Yes, there were mostly white men in black tie in attendance (one of them was me) who have never known real hardship.
Yes, there was lot of back-slapping and general congratulatory "aren't we good for doing this". LOTS of clapping. For just about anything. I mean - seriously? You can get up. WOW.
You can actually speak.
Standing Ovation.

BUT.

Last year this bunch of 40-odd people raised about US$22,000 dollars to fight polio, and becuse some clever cove at Rotary HQ managed to get Bill & Melinda drunk (I assume) 10 or so years ago, they have been MATCHING EVERY DOLLAR RAISED BY ROTARY WITH TWO SINCE THEN.
So my little club raised US$67,000 against polio.

An oral vaccination costs between 0.10 and 0.14.

You do the math on how many lives my nice lunches have helped to save, but also exactly how many (exaclty twice) Mr Gates has helped. And, to be honest, I am more likely to put my hand in my pocket every week if I know that every coin I put in the little box will -miracolously- be mutliplied be three before it reaches the truly needful.

Sorry - where was I? And, erm, did I mention there was nice wine at the dinner?

Anyway.

I live in the UK. Notwhithstanding the valiant efforts of the Conservative Party to fight them and starve them and close them, we still have libraries in this country. A number of them carry (litterally, carved in stone) the the name of Carnegie, some of Rockfeller.

I'd be the first to admit that their actions in life were predatory, and -if you wish- antisocial, to the extent that they wanted to maximise their welth against the common wealth.

But this part of their legacy - well, it just lives on. My daughters go to the local libray and see and touch and smell and experience books. They're lucky, because they can d0 so at home too.

But I am all too aware that this is not the case of some of the other children there, and there I pause and think: I am eternally grateful to these dead white dinosaurs. If I could not afford to let my children into the magic world of books and reading, they would make it possible - decades after their death.

I guess what I'm trying to say is -I am not _terribly_ bothered if Z is doing this for his legacy.
It's good.
It just is.
Because it wouldn't happen otherwise.

And many, may good things can come out of this. So, for once, I would prefer - against my basic instincts- to give Z the benefit of the doubt. Homo sum, nihil alieni a me etc etc..
posted by MessageInABottle at 5:38 PM on December 1, 2015 [28 favorites]


man, reading Carnegie quote gets my knee jerking so thoroughly. like I immediately become convinced that the exact opposite solution — breaking apart the great fortunes into trifling amounts, and then distributing them evenly in a great big Jubilee — is in fact the correct one.

hey hyperinflation might cause something like that.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:40 PM on December 1, 2015 [16 favorites]


From The Gospel of Wealth article about Andrew Carnegie's philosophy posted by clavdivs:
Carnegie based his philosophy on the observation that the heirs of large fortunes frequently squandered them in riotous living rather than nurturing and growing them. Even bequeathing one's fortune to charity was no guarantee that it would be used wisely, due to the fact that there was no guarantee that a charitable organization not under one's direction would use the money in accordance with one's wishes. Carnegie disapproved of charitable giving that maintained the poor in their impoverished state, and urged a movement toward the creation of a new mode of giving that would create opportunities for the beneficiaries of the gift to better themselves. As a result, the gift would not be simply consumed, but would be productive of even greater wealth throughout the house. [emphasis added]
posted by Chichibio at 5:43 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Good on them. Emphasis on the them, here, since that element seems to be being overlooked.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:51 PM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


As a result, the gift would not be simply consumed, but would be productive of even greater wealth throughout the house.

Yes, these things that produce even higher productivity for everyone, like transit systems, education, fire and crime protection, bankruptcy law, market regulation, food inspections, healthcare systems, and open scientific research.

If you can ignore US-specific drone strikes and military misadventures, sounds like government in well run countries.

I too wish he would put some small amount to reforming the gerrymandered kleptocracy we currently have, but I assume he is afraid of Facebook getting the Yukos treatment.
posted by benzenedream at 6:01 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm just going to gently point out that Dr. Priscilla Chen also deserves a pat on the back here.

Her name is Priscilla Chan.
posted by grouse at 6:04 PM on December 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


Both Gates and Zuckerberg appear to be hands-on philanthropists, they are spending their money on the things they think are important and they are administering it in the way they think is best.

I -strongly- recommend you read the New Yorker article re how Zuckerberg's $100 million gift to the Newark school system was administered. It might open your eyes.
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:08 PM on December 1, 2015 [26 favorites]


Well he seems to have devoted a large amount of money to the development of genetically-engineered floating dog-dandelion hybrids. That by itself will do much to secure his legacy.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:09 PM on December 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


Their definition of social justice may not be the one you have in mind.

And that's exactly why I'm firmly in the reacts-by-calling-him-a-douchbag camp. This isn't Zuck cutting a cheque to MSF, it's him creating an organization that will use his resources to perpetuate his will. Granted, he supports lots of worthwhile things and the money will make a huge difference, but as a matter of principal, should any individual have the right to exert that much influence on the world whether it's for good or not-so-good?

Even bequeathing one's fortune to charity was no guarantee that it would be used wisely, due to the fact that there was no guarantee that a charitable organization not under one's direction would use the money in accordance with one's wishes.

And those wishes are usually "make people forget how much of an asshole I was in acquiring this wealth"
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:16 PM on December 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


What makes Zuck and Gates any different than the Koch Brothers, who also have a "foundation" which gives away lots of money to charitable causes that they personally support?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:22 PM on December 1, 2015 [16 favorites]




BonButNotStupid: Because the majority of the Koch Brothers donations have gone to political groups that try to further their political philosophy? If you want to compare the Koch Brothers to another billionaire pushing an ideological agenda, Soros might be a better comparison.

I will grant you that educational reform is/can be quite political in nature.
posted by el io at 6:26 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Amen on cynicism shaming.

Now, pardon me while I do a dramatic reading of some Peter Singer with a Peter Unger chaser.
posted by persona au gratin at 6:33 PM on December 1, 2015


Isn't it kind of dishonest to use your paternity leave time to work on personal projects? Maybe he shouldn't have posted this on Facebook.
posted by FJT at 6:39 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]




I -strongly- recommend you read the New Yorker article re how Zuckerberg's $100 million gift to the Newark school system was administered. It might open your eyes.

So, in the context of a deficit, there was disagreement about the ideal path to reform, and career politicians wound up spending most of it on consultants, with zero stakeholder buy-in, while the few (administratively leaner) charter schools were at least decent at spending on actual pupils.

(Great research in that article, every play is detailed - will give it a closer read soon. But wow for now.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:48 PM on December 1, 2015


why are mefites such haters?

I'd LOVE to collect $45B from people who can pay for advertising and play stupid games on the web, and then collect their personal information that they submitted to me, and then give it away to a worthy charity.

Everyone has a price, and I'd be more than willing to be like blackbeard or some shit, sailing the high seas as a pirate and plundering gold and baubles and all sorts of shit. Using cannons, cutlasses, making people walk the plank and shit like that. I'd totally be a ruthless bastard like that for $45B.

And all this dude did was start up a social networking site and everything that came with it.
And we are hating on him for that?

Everyone has a price, and his price for $45B seems to be a lot lower than what mine would be. So I can't hate this dude anymore.

Good for you, dude. You have made the world SIGNIFICANTLY better place (because of your donation) than you have made it worse. That can't be said about many people.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:49 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


A good thing was done. The light can shine from unlikely places, but it still illuminates.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 6:53 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't have a problem with them structuring it as an LLC, actually. As far as I can tell, that just means they might have to pay taxes and aren't subject to toothless oversight by the state AG.

What this means is that he can use the money for SuperPacs, funding political candidates just like the Koch brothers, and hiring lobbyists. For good or ill is to be determined.
posted by JackFlash at 7:03 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


So what does this translate to in real dollars? I'm curious about the whole mechanics of it.

I presume that the basis for the $45B figure is the current quoted value of the stock. But you can't just up and sell Xty million shares and have someone hand you $45B. So, what, he sells 2% of his stock per year for the next 50 years, contributing approximately $900M annually? Tough to wrap your head around the numbers.
posted by Room 101 at 7:07 PM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, seriously, is everyone's ego bruised from this gesture? Maybe there aren't enough hate-inspiring acts in the world to channel that hate? Elon Musk too obvious a candidate? Sure, any person in the limelight can have mud dug up about them. Hell, even Gandhi abused his wife.

And Zuckerberg is right. People are, in general, dumb... in comparison to someone who invented facebook and has the good sense to give away almost 99% of his net worth. If his 18 year old self or whatever thought the world or his social circle unworthy, the fact that he now wants to give back speaks volumes about how much he's grown. That's better than the 30-40 year olds in this thread who are simply looking for a channel for their bitterness.
posted by kinoeye at 7:09 PM on December 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


Room 101, I think his foundation (does he have one?) might invest it, with the interest and some portion of the capital being gifted. The PR from this move is bound to net a lot of great proposals from charities and they can sift through it over time. Hell, I might even buy some Facebook to contribute to the move (yeah yeah, cynics). I doubt he'll simply blow through the money for the sake of doing so.
posted by kinoeye at 7:13 PM on December 1, 2015


Yes, because it's bitterness fueling us. Not the fact that we can look at the damage (yes, damage) that Gates' "philanthropy" has done in education, thanks to his charitable giving being a major bankroll for the education "reform" movement.

The fact is, this money will be a massive weight on the direction that our society will move, and it will be directed in a manner dictated ultimately by one individual. That alone should worry you.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:17 PM on December 1, 2015 [37 favorites]


I'm not against this, and actually like the part of the letter quoted earlier in the thread. But noblesse oblige as a solution to inequality still rankles.

From 2010 when Zuck made the big donation to education reform in Newark:
The donation of $100 million by Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg to the Newark school system is a small episode that reveals something fundamental about American society.

The move, lauded uncritically by the American media, embodies and further enshrines the principle that has come to prevail in the US in recent years: if the population is to have access to education, culture and technology, indispensable for life in a modern society, it will be at the whim of the very rich. Any conception of social rights residing inalienably in the people is rejected by the ruling elite and its political and media apologists.

This is, in effect, the return of the aristocratic principle. Under the old regime, the population was essentially at the mercy of the great ones in society, who bestowed—or did not bestow—favors and gifts as they saw fit.

The democratic revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries were influenced by the notion of the social contract—that a society arises out of the desire of people to live together for their mutual benefit. The government and its officials, according to the ideologists of the bourgeois revolution, were delegated to act as the representatives of society as a whole, with the people retaining the ultimate sovereignty.

In the 19th century in the US, liberal and socialist-influenced reformers took up the battle for public education as a social right, seeing it, in part, as a defense of the republican form of government against European monarchies and nobilities. The emergence of the working class and its struggles gave the fight for universal education a new significance.

All of that is now being reversed. The availability of decent public schools, public libraries, orchestras and other cultural and educational institutions is more and more reduced to the level of a privilege, which the financial elite can provide or not, as it chooses. The wealthy few buy and sell, set up or close down, these socially vital services according to their financial health and individual mindset.

The population is encouraged by the media and the political system to look on these billionaire benefactors as heroes, as their superiors in every fashion, to whom deference should and must be shown.
-- The return of the aristocratic principle
posted by dustyasymptotes at 7:23 PM on December 1, 2015 [32 favorites]


I did a quick search and don't see any concrete data on the effect the new curriculum has on the morals/intelligence of students. I don't see how anything negative can be shown for at least 20 years.

When money in the top 1% is distributed to the bottom 10% or 20% or whatever, instead of being distributed right back into the top 1%, that helps social mobility and all kinds of mobility. In addition to the fact this frees up public funds of underfunded governments (whichever nation the money touches) to equalize society.
posted by kinoeye at 7:27 PM on December 1, 2015


Anybody who's read The Boy Kings is going to wonder what the ulterior motive is. Stashing all the money into an LLC that you control but can't be taxed on is probably one of those tax moves you'd need a hojillion dollars to really appreciate.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:27 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


There are minimum requirements for any charitable organization to maintain their charitable and tax free status. You can't simply spend the money on anything you want to.
posted by kinoeye at 7:31 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


C'mon, people, really! His failing (and, let's be honest it is a failing) is that he's putting this floating-value-paper toward something as innocuous (nebulous) as "charity".

The correct response is to use the (floating value) currency to fund development (and deployment) of nanotech assassins. You know this, I know this, we all know this.

Raytheon shareholders, in particular, know this. It's not controversial. It's been settled.

If you cannot benefit semi-anonymous shareholders by weaponizing the very best technologies we have to offer, well then what the fuck is the point? Jesus Fucking Christ, it's like none of you lived through the fifties. Didn't anyone pay attention during the RAND lectures? Shit, was I the only one who didn't stagger out for coffee and never return?
posted by aramaic at 7:31 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


That's better than the 30-40 year olds in this thread who are simply looking for a channel for their bitterness.

If, say, Dick Cheney donated his net worth to charity, he would still be the same person that did all those evil things that he did, and people would still be justified in calling him an asshole.

Similarly, Zuckerberg doing this good thing, albeit a massive good thing, does not give him a free pass for his many past assholish acts. Credit where credit is due, good or bad. That's not bitterness.

Note: Zuckerberg's misdeeds do not even begin to approach Cheney's, that was just an example.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:33 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


When money in the top 1% is distributed to the bottom 10% or 20% or whatever, instead of being distributed right back into the top 1%, that helps social mobility and all kinds of mobility. In addition to the fact this frees up public funds of underfunded governments (whichever nation the money touches) to equalize society.

Do you honestly think he's going to put the money into anything that's going to actually threaten the system he sits athwart? And honestly, if you want governments to not be underfunded, then perhaps a better solution should be for Facebook to pay its fucking taxes.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:36 PM on December 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


I did a quick search and don't see any concrete data on the effect the new curriculum has on the morals/intelligence of students. I don't see how anything negative can be shown for at least 20 years.

Gates pretty much bankrolled the war on teaching as a profession in the US.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:38 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


I can't help but think that what the robber barons did in the late 1800s was the catalyst for a lot of sweeping changes in public education, public health, and social welfare that an ignorant electorate would never have voted in democratically on their own because of xenophobia, fears of taxation, etc. There's probably no parallel situation here in 2015.

It's also worth noting that for every Gates and Zuckerberg and Buffett, there's like 25 Murdochs, Ailes, and Trumps so we can happily maintain our self righteous cynicism and quietly think this is a good thing.

I did a similar thing when I first looked into my child's eyes through my own tear filled eyes. After I gave away my billions, I thought hard about what kind of man I wanted my boy to see as his father and I quit my high(ish) paying job at House of God Hospital and went to work in community health and never looked back. I don't doubt for a minute that childbirth makes you want to do crazy shit like this.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:43 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


You have made the world SIGNIFICANTLY better place (because of your donation) than you have made it worse.

It should be noted that nothing has, as yet, been done, other than the issuance of a press release earmarking their personal shares for their own LLC. Let's actually see the good works of Saint Zuck before we canonize him, hmm?

Also, I'd like to see this sentiment reflected in Facebook's own hiring practices, as well.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:43 PM on December 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


And honestly, if you want governments to not be underfunded, then perhaps a better solution should be for Facebook to pay its fucking taxes.

I know I was just dissing Zuckerberg, but Facebook pays the taxes that it is required to. Governments need to fix their crappy, loophole-ridden tax laws. Stop allowing profit shifting and other avoidance strategies. For example, the Silicon Valley giants paid almost no tax in the UK last year, despite making billions.

Public companies cannot just give money to governments that they are not required to give - they have shareholders to answer to.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:47 PM on December 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


It is not enough that we give more. We must endeavor to take less.
posted by Freen at 7:48 PM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


In related news, Tom from MySpace gave a whole $20 to that guy outside the am/pm and didn't even make a big deal out of it, unlike some jerks
posted by prize bull octorok at 7:51 PM on December 1, 2015 [17 favorites]


The fact is, this money will be a massive weight on the direction that our society will move, and it will be directed in a manner dictated ultimately by one individual. That alone should worry you.

The lack of transparency and the idea of relying on noblesse oblige is terrifying, and offends me on principle. Governmental management of social goods is preferable (in theory, because there's at least the promise of some kind of input on the ground (or at least that way, we can, sort-of, choose which aristocrats act on our behalf). OTOH, in practice… the political systems we have are weak and heavily compromised by interests and asymmetries, and the debacle described in that NYT piece is outrageous but also hugely familiar. (Name a project, any project - in Ontario, E-Health; Ornge; that nuclear power plant.) And most voters are too busy working themselves to death to have time for the kind of grassroots activism that might counterbalance things.

Ah, I don't know. Maybe it's not a terrible thing to be pragmatic about it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:52 PM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


"The winners of our age must be challenged to do more good. But never, ever tell them to do less harm .... that capitalism’s rough edges must be sanded and its surplus fruit shared, but the underlying system must never be questioned."

The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You
posted by Freen at 7:53 PM on December 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


One magnate who did not give to charity was Billy Durant. He was the give-em-a-job guy who had an amazing life. (huge tipper, traveled with a barber chair were ever he went, his train crashed, so did the market) so, one day your trying to buy Ford Motor the next your telling President Hoover to watch out about speculation. Then you go bust and become the object of charity but not before building what could be arguably called the first full service bowling alley franchise.
The community generally gives you an obscure gratite slab with two flag poles and call it a memorial that no one remembers and place it on the only privately built cultural center in the country.
Money.
posted by clavdivs at 8:03 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


If they threw a few bucks towards Screaming Females, it would make the world a better place.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:05 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


mid 90's knee-jerk cynicism

Say what you will about mid-90's knee-jerk cynicism, dude, at least it's an ethos.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:20 PM on December 1, 2015 [16 favorites]


The perfect Metafilter is the enemy of the good, evidently.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 8:26 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Like, it seems really complicated to give away 44.5 Billion Dollars.

That figure would buy 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. (Money simplifies, clarifies).
posted by Chitownfats at 8:37 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Mark Zuckerberg announced that he is giving 99% of his Facebook stock to charity."

This line from the original post is absolutely false. He is not giving his money to charity. He is transferring his money to an LLC, which is another profit-making company. What he does with that new company is unknown. He can use it as a venture capital fund, he can use it private equity investment, he can use it for political lobbying, or he can contribute it to charity. One thing is certain. He is not giving 99% of his Facebook stock to charity.
posted by JackFlash at 8:40 PM on December 1, 2015 [22 favorites]


Metafilter: it's bitterness fueling us.
posted by el io at 8:41 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


re: taxes, Zuck paid around $1B in taxes after Facebook's IPO. California alone took in something like a couple billion dollars in extra tax revenue from the Facebook IPO. It's actually kind of a problem because historically California has been terrible at budgeting and these big windfalls just screw up the state's spending.
posted by GuyZero at 8:44 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


And Zuckerberg is right. People are, in general, dumb... in comparison to someone who invented facebook and has the good sense to give away almost 99% of his net worth.

Wow, I'm a little surprised that this is an actual argument put forth in support of what is essentially support for rule by the elite. That just because Zuckerberg is rich that he knows better than the rest of us and his decisions should go unchallenged.
posted by FJT at 8:48 PM on December 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


The letter reads less as if he's giving money to charity and more as if he thinks his project of universal Facebook expansion should now have charitable status.
posted by Segundus at 8:58 PM on December 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


The whole thing in a democracy is that we ostensibly get to collectively choose where to put resources. What bugs me about this situation is that the system is rigged to give individuals incredible wealth, and when they use it for charity, they choose how to spend it, instead of the people that one could argue all that money was stolen from.
posted by OrangeGloves at 9:00 PM on December 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


I honestly don't know where parody or self-parody ends or begins here, anymore. Sleep well, everyone.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 9:31 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


God the tone of this thread pisses me off. It's what burned me out on a lot of progressive political discourse online, in places like tumblr.

Person people aren't all that positive towards does something inarguably good: "Yea, but did they do a good thing while wearing a jetpack and saving orphans? ppffffft call me when they flagellate themselves harder"

It's nothing but "I guess they did a good thing/apologized for the bad thing(s) they did but why aren't they doing even more than whatever they are", which is usually like the maximum amount. It's always a plot for attention, and never a genuine act.

I hope you do something good and everyone poo-poos you. And shit, you have to think, if this is the tone coming from the "good team" whenever someone does something like this how are they doing it for pats on the back? This is the only response i ever see from down in the dirt and shoveling progressives. They're doing the right thing despite the fact that no one is going to give them a cookie. They'll just ask why they didn't do it while doing a backflip.

Like, pull the stick of ginger out of your keisters. If everyone on this site spent their entire lifetime income towards charity while living in coleman pup tents and eating gruel it wouldn't add up to even a billion dollars, probably.
posted by emptythought at 9:38 PM on December 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm glad he's doing it, but I don't believe in praising jerks when they do the right thing for once, and I don't believe in praising the rich and powerful for doing the right thing because they are rich and powerful and doing the right thing "sets an example." I hold the rich and powerful to higher, not lower standards. If they want praise, donate a billion dollars to the federal government or institute mandatory parental leave or something else substantial.

I wrote the above in the thread about his paternity leave a couple weeks ago.

So in all fairness, I now must say: good job, and thank you.
posted by chortly at 9:45 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


God the tone of this thread pisses me off...If everyone on this site spent their entire lifetime income towards charity while living in coleman pup tents and eating gruel it wouldn't add up to even a billion dollars, probably.

Are you having difficulty grasping this concept? He's not contributing his money to charity. He's transferring it to a for-profit LLC.
posted by JackFlash at 9:47 PM on December 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


Metafilter: ressentiment
posted by Xavier Xavier at 9:54 PM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ok, yea, that's a rather important detail i missed even though i read(and i thought) absorbed the relevant details on this one. I just assumed that holding company was a 501.c

And the beat goes on, i guess.
posted by emptythought at 9:54 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


“Mark Zuckerberg Is Giving Away 99 Percent of His Facebook Fortune,” Annie Lowrey, New York Daily Intelligencer, 01 December 2015
Even if he gave 99 percent of his fortune away today, Zuck would still be in the top 0.01 percent of all households, wealth-wise. He would still be worth about twice as much as bona fide rich guy Mitt Romney.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:21 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


If everyone on this site spent their entire lifetime income towards charity while living in coleman pup tents and eating gruel it wouldn't add up to even a billion dollars, probably.

Well, are you okay that one Mark Zuckerberg can outweigh the collective action, efforts, and resources of thousands of people?

Or how I thought of it: Is one Mark Zuckerberg with $45 billion better than 45 million people with $1k each?

I think that's a different question than whether Mark and Priscilla are doing enough good. Because I'm not poopooing his individual action. Some sort of good will come from this, even if it's a billion a year and even if it's for what looks like an LLC that will have it's own Chan/Zuck controlled agenda.
posted by FJT at 11:21 PM on December 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


This just always makes me wonder if, at some point, you just have so much money you run out of things that need a substantial amount of your capital. Once you kinda max out to the point where anyone you care about is guaranteed a-ok after you die, you may as well just...offload some, somewhere, anywhere, just to see what that does emotionally and socially.

It's not like it matters what the motivation is, anyhow. With money stuff the only thing that matters are the results. We shall see, I guess.
posted by zinful at 11:26 PM on December 1, 2015


I'm going to voice something that possibly sounds unfair, but Zuckerberg is only giving his money to charities, instead of doing something more with it: he could wield it to lobby for political change; compare to someone like Lawrence Lessig who in his political activism advocates reforms in how money gets used in American government who would totally benefit from such a backing.

Whereas charity is the most obvious place to shuffle your "excess" capital, because it lets you easily offload your responsibilities; it's to demonstrate that your hands are clean. If instead you wield it directly to achieve some greater good, it becomes an active responsibility. The privileged have that opportunity, but it is easier to hand it off.
posted by polymodus at 11:39 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


He should have spent it on a spaceship.
posted by colie at 12:26 AM on December 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Or Jimi Hendrix's guitar.
posted by Wolof at 1:36 AM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's the press that surprises me here. Aren't they supposed to be constantly asking themselves "Why is this bastard lying to me?" In this case they all seem to have been saying to themselves "That lovely, modest Mr Zuckerberg has obviously done something far more noble and generous in reality than the tax avoidance scheme he actually mentions in his not-at-all-absurd letter."
posted by Segundus at 2:19 AM on December 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Person people aren't all that positive towards does something inarguably good

And this is the sort of argument that drives me nuts, because it's showing an utter unwillingness to listen to the actual arguments that people are making, all because the speaker has made a decision that some action is "inarguable".

First off, there are very, very few things in this world that are truly inarguable. Not everyone is going to agree with your view of the world, because they have their own view. Second, you should read the arguments people are making. When people say they don't trust Zuckerberg, it has to do with the fact that he has a history of really questionable actions. There are also concerns about how he's structuring this venture not as an actual charitable trust which has rules about how it spends its funds, but as an LLC that will have a vast amount more latitude in its actions. And then there are issues with the fact that this is a pretty damn big thumb on the scales of society, and it's going to be applying pressure according to the dictates of one person, which is problematic, no matter how good the intentions of said individual.

So if you have actual responses to those arguments, then actually state them. But if you're upset that we're not as ready to praise this action as some sort of unalloyed good, well, sorry. We have our reasons for doing so, and it's worth actually reading them, because we actually have our own reasons for feeling that way.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:20 AM on December 2, 2015 [21 favorites]


No doubt the Nobel Peace Prize Committee have their eye on this.
posted by Segundus at 2:21 AM on December 2, 2015


he could pay a LOT of student loans. JUBILEEEEEE.
posted by listen, lady at 2:38 AM on December 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's good to have warm feelings toward those that are doing good for the world. Whilst I applaud the idea that people should contribute to charity and that the obscenely rich should recirculate the wealth they are hoarding, I am not sure that this announcement is about either of those things.

That people are getting bent out of shape because the press release is not being taken as gospel is somewhat confounding.
posted by asok at 3:38 AM on December 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


If they want praise, donate a billion dollars to the federal government

Well, that would buy 20% of an aircraft carrier to place in the Pacific to annoy China, or quite a few Predator drones and Hellfire missies to attack Yemenis and Pakistanis identified by CIA algorithms as engaged in a pattern of potential terrorist behavior.

I don't think giving the Feds a billion dollars is the very best (or most 'humanitarian') thing that a philanthropist might do with his money.
posted by theorique at 3:51 AM on December 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


People are so easily hookwinked by the "Rich guy gives money to 'charity'" narrative that it's no wonder that the wealthy continue to do it. All skepticism, apparently, goes out the window and the hippie punching begins: oh, you're all just cynics, naysayers, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, etc. etc. etc. Any future criticism of the "philanthropist" can be countered in the future with "yeah, but I gave billions to charity tho."

But, when one looks into the details, things really are less than rosy:

- Charity is a tax writeoff that prevents money from going to the government where it would be under public control; these private organizations are directed by the whims of a techno-billionaire
- Pledging money is different from spending it
- Zuckerberg in particular has a record of failure (Newark schools) with giving away money
- Zuckerberg in particular is transferring his money into an LLC, not a charity even in the definitional sense of the term

In other words, mega-"charity" is a way of further consolidating the power of the uber-elite in our society, since now they don't just get to use their money as they wish but get PRAISED FOR DOING IT. The opening line of that Gawker article calls this exactly what it is: a "savvy PR maneuver." Those who think this is so obviously "doing good" really need to take a second look at the situation.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:05 AM on December 2, 2015 [21 favorites]


- Charity is a tax writeoff that prevents money from going to the government where it would be under public control; these private organizations are directed by the whims of a techno-billionaire
- Pledging money is different from spending it
- Zuckerberg in particular has a record of failure (Newark schools) with giving away money
- Zuckerberg in particular is transferring his money into an LLC, not a charity even in the definitional sense of the term


One thing I've been wondering reading this thread is whether 4 cancels out 1 (i.e. whether this money will still somehow be tax-written-off despite the techno-billionaire-LLC structure) -- does anyone know?
posted by advil at 5:31 AM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Rich guys always want what's best for everyone." - Homer Simpson.
posted by colie at 6:02 AM on December 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


The LLC structure does take some of the excitement away. I'm hoping they explain it further or some journalist does good reporting on it. The original letter makes it clear their goals are philanthropic. The plan outlined is not some profitable Facebook-2.0, they are talking about improving health, education, equality. It's very ambitious and a little naïve and I believe is well intentioned.

The problem, such as it is, is $45B is a shit-ton of money. You can't just give it to your local food bank and call it a day. There's a focus in this generation on entrepreneurial philanthropy, on applying what the modern-day Captains of Industry think made them successful to works for the public good. At its worst it's a terribly arrogant or even self-serving method of philanthropy. At its best it's applying the business and leadership skills that made these folks phenomenally wealthy to something with a more noble goal than selling ads to people sharing pictures of the grandkids.

The two examples of this kind of mega-philanthropy I'm most familiar with are George Soros' Open Society Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They are both controversial in some quarters but in the long run, I think a force for good. They are certainly better than spending the money on megayachts. I think they are also better than just giving the money to the US government.

Doing something as an LLC doesn't mean it's automatically not philanthropic. At this scale, the LLC vs. charitable foundation decision is largely one of taxes and administration. I think (but could be wrong) that the LLC structure means that the Zuckerberg wealth will be taxed once on its way into the LLC, probably as long term capital gains (20% federal, 13.3% California). In exchange the LLC can operate however the hell it wants, without the requirement of paying out 5% a year or all the other oversight being a charitable foundation implies. In practice what this means is that the IRS won't adjudicate Chen and Zuckerberg's philanthropy, the court of public opinion will be the one to judge whether this money is being spent for good or bad.

Zuckerberg and Chan are 31 years old. They have 40+ productive years ahead of themselves to do something with this money. They've just made a public statement they are going to use that money for advancing human potential and promoting equality. I think that's a good thing.
posted by Nelson at 7:39 AM on December 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


If this was phrased as a $1b/yr holdings-liquidation plan it would not play as well.

That LLC isn't going to sit on them shares, yknow.
posted by ead at 8:00 AM on December 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


In practice what this means is that the IRS won't adjudicate Chen and Zuckerberg's philanthropy, the court of public opinion will be the one to judge whether this money is being spent for good or bad.

It also means they can spend the money buying elections and politicians (with, these days, almost zero centralized public disclosure of these activities), which public charities cannot. "The court of public opinion" will have no visibility into where the money actually goes. See: Laurene Powell Jobs' Emerson Collective.
posted by kelseyq at 8:02 AM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


They've just made a public statement they are going to use that money for advancing human potential and promoting equality.

Yes, as they define it. Which is sort of the whole problem. It's amazing how quickly we'll cheer on the formation of an aristocracy when we think its values align with ours.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:04 AM on December 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


(See also: the very exciting things the public market will do to maximize cash flow from facebook's private information stash once there is no longer a single party holding a majority of voting shares. If you think Z is a douchebag, you ain't seen nothing yet.)
posted by ead at 8:04 AM on December 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Someone who is smarter than me on contracts - you can't contract legally with "the American People," right? Is this legally any different from politicians promising no new taxes or something?

Or alternatively, what is the estate tax in California and who is scheduled to administer the LLC? Will it be his future family?
posted by corb at 8:10 AM on December 2, 2015


I think they are also better than just giving the money to the US government.

You know, I have to ask - why? Because from what I've seen, the arguments are basically "I don't like where the government spends its money" and "government is fractured and unresponsive".

Neither strikes as a good argument for basically turning over the public good to the elite to execute as they see fit.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:14 AM on December 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I forget what an overwhelmingly negative place Metafilter can be. People will be helped by this money...people who desperately need it. Their lives will be made better. But capitalism still exists so we can't be happy for them, I guess.
The funny thing is if Zuckerberg announced he was spending all his money to build a rocket to Mars - an act that would help exactly zero people who are currently alive - he'd be hailed as a fucking hero.
posted by rocket88 at 8:17 AM on December 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think they are also better than just giving the money to the US government.

Does that hold true for forty-five million? Forty-five thousand? Forty-five, even? Is there some point where suddenly putting money to work for the public good, under public administration, where it makes sense and some point where it ceases to? Where's the line? What's the general rule here?
posted by cjelli at 8:21 AM on December 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


The LLC status (i.e. the corporate form) is a state level designation. The status as a charity or other non-profit is a Federal income tax level status. More or less any legal entity which has the appropriate characteristics can qualify as a charity/non-profit for Federal income tax purposes.

The fact that he is using the LLC as the vehicle (rather than a trust or non-profit corporation) indicates - as others have pointed out - that he wants to keep his options open regarding the use of the funds and that these options will include expenditures/investments which would not normally qualify as charitable for income tax purposes. This would mean that the LLC will not qualify as a charitable organization. Moreover, it may mean that he will be treated as the owner of the organization and may be able to dissolve it and pull the FB stock back out at any time.

Without more information, this is a confusing move to me. It does not appear that he achieves anything (from a legal or tax standpoint) by using the LLC vehicle that he could not have achieved by acting in his individual capacity.

Depending upon where the LLC is created, someone should be able to pull the formation documents which may indicate what the intent is here. If he is going for charitable status for the LLC, its tax filings will be public record too. So, we should know what direction this is going in time.
posted by SugarFreeGum at 8:22 AM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why not fund all the already existing Charities/Schools/Libraries/Planned motherhoods/whatevers that do not actually drown in money? He could make money rain for the next decades on all this associations, but of course not, he would not be in the spotlight in the same way, he would not be able to point at himself and show how a great person he is, he would not be hailed as a saviour and a hero. Btw, he is already being praised as one just by _saying_ he is going to do goodstuff.

This is the same NIH syndrome paired with a huge ego and a dismissive attitude towards all the associations that are already doing social work, because as a tech entrepreneur he obviously knows better than anybody else how to fix things.

He could have done all of this without this publicity stunt. But apparently the most important thing was to let the world know about his intentions and not actually implementing them.
posted by yann at 8:23 AM on December 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think just giving the $45B to the US government is a bad idea because I don't think it would be used efficiently. 20% would go to the military, for instance, which I personally think would be outright harmful. I certainly believe in funding the government and paying taxes, and I think it will be a good thing if the LLC structure means a third of it ends up being paid in taxes on the way in to the LLC. But I also believe that there's room for private individuals to spend their wealth where they think is best. In order to try different approaches to improving the world.

Anyway, unless you are seriously proposing a program of US asset seizure there's absolutely no reason Chen and Zuckerberg would just give the money to the government. It's their money. They've said they're going to spend it on philanthropy. The Metafilter Brigades may not like where that goes, but they really have no say other than some impotent Internet bitterness here.

On preview, I totally agree with SugarFreeGum this announcement leaves a lot of open questions. I hope they clarify. It will probably take years for them to figure it out themselves. What we have now is a well-meaning statement, and something the opposite of anonymous, humble charity.
posted by Nelson at 8:25 AM on December 2, 2015


I haven't figured out how to work this in to any of my comments, but This Economist article on tax-deductions and charity really shifted my thinking about charity and taxes a few years ago. If you step back and look at it, it's quite odd that a rich person avoids $30–$50 in taxes when giving $100 to some cause of their own choosing.
posted by Nelson at 8:30 AM on December 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


More or less any legal entity which has the appropriate characteristics can qualify as a charity/non-profit for Federal income tax purposes.

Again, the "appropriate characteristics" include being forbidden to donate to political campaigns and having serious restrictions placed on their lobbying activities. There is precedent for Silicon Valley gajillionaires structuring their "charitable" spending to avoid these restrictions. The Newark school fiasco rightfully gets a lot of the flak but let's not forget FWD.us, Zuckerberg's similarly bungled attempt at get tech-company-friendly (and only that) immigration reform passed.
posted by kelseyq at 8:37 AM on December 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Can't help but anticipate young Max attempting to sue her parents over this in years to come.

Hell of an amazing thing for them to do though.
posted by comealongpole at 8:37 AM on December 2, 2015


Personally I would rather we (in the U.S. anyhow) vote in sane legislators who will reform our embarrassingly regressive tax laws to ensure the wealthy help the disadvantaged - whether they feel "inspired to" or not.
posted by aught at 8:38 AM on December 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Both Gates and Zuckerberg appear to be hands-on philanthropists, they are spending their money on the things they think are important and they are administering it in the way they think is best.

Though it's hard to imagine that Zuckerberg's plan will do even a fraction of the good that the Gates Foundation's initiatives do.
posted by aught at 8:42 AM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Winklevii are probably consulting their lawyers.
posted by colie at 8:42 AM on December 2, 2015


Yes, they said that they're going to spend it on philanthropy.

As they define it. Without any meaningful input from the public.

As several people (including myself) have pointed out in this thread, you only need to look at how the Gates Foundation bankrolled the education "reform" movement to see how this can very quickly go horribly wrong.

The efficiency argument isn't really compelling to me either. There are other aspects that are just as important as efficiency - like transparency and allowing society a say in what direction it is moved.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:44 AM on December 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm sure the multi-billionaire is glad there are so many people here eager to smite those who dare impugn his name.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:46 AM on December 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think we need to remember that Zuckerchan etc. will never want for anything. As startlingly large a figure as this proposed act of so called charity is, they will still be able to afford absolutely ANYTHING.

I really hope this does some good, and the Gates Foundation has shown (on balance) that there is good that can be done in this fashion.
posted by trif at 8:55 AM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's hardly "negative" to point out that a gesture framed as "billionaire gives all money to charity" is actually "billionaire to gradually liquidate holdings and transfer resulting cash to self".

There is no giving nor charity in this announcement. We are left to work with guesses on the outcome, based on the man's moral character and track record. The LLC could choose to go into the private prison business, for all the "court of public opinion" will get to influence it.
posted by ead at 8:56 AM on December 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


As an aside:

I hate that any discussion about the kinds of money involved here always end up using nice, big units of measure, so we can all talk about easily-digestible numbers like "45 billion".

Let's be really clear: the amount of money that Zuckerberg and Chan are talking about giving away is $45,000,000,000. That's on the order of 700,000 times the median net worth of a US citizen.

This is a staggering amount of money. So, on the one hand, yes: that's a lot to give away. On the other hand: that's a lot for any one person (or two) to have in the first place.

Zuckerberg is one of only 536 billionaires in the US, as of 2015. 536. His wealth doesn't make him the 1%, or even the 0.1%. Every single billionaire is at a minimum literally in the top 0.00016%.

As a further note: while it's not even something in my political wheelhouse, I feel like it's nonetheless important to point out that you could take away all but a billion dollars each of those 536 people (leaving each $1,000,000,000 -- an insane amount of money), and they would still be the 536 richest people in the US. Meanwhile, the money you took from them would be enough to give every family member of a family living at twice the poverty level or lower about $20,000. That's not per family: that's per family member (mom, dad, and the kids).

Can you imagine the kind of economic uplift that would occur if that were to happen (particularly in light of research showing that direct cash gifts are by far the most effective charity)?
posted by tocts at 8:57 AM on December 2, 2015 [16 favorites]


If this was just a money grab- why would they go so public with it? They could have shifted it over, pretended "they didn't want the publicity" and went on their merry way . And I'm not being naive- I know that they could probably use some burnishing of the image. But when you own like, half the money in the US- why bother? Unless you genuinely want to do something good. Need I remind all of y'all that Trump is still a viable candidate in this endless race to someone not- as -good -as -Obama?
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 9:01 AM on December 2, 2015


I really hope this does some good, and the Gates Foundation has shown (on balance) that there is good that can be done in this fashion.

There's a strong case to be made that the Gates Foundation is part of the problem, not the solution.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:03 AM on December 2, 2015


If this was just a money grab- why would they go so public with it? They could have shifted it over, pretended "they didn't want the publicity" and went on their merry way . And I'm not being naive- I know that they could probably use some burnishing of the image. But when you own like, half the money in the US- why bother?

Because they want to be remembered positively. It's the same sort of thing that happened with Carnegie. And there's a real sense from the tech crowd that they are the smartest people in the room, and thus they have the right ideas about where society should go.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:16 AM on December 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Anil Dash: How to look at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
"I do believe that Mark and Priscilla want to have a meaningful positive impact on the world, and I am unapologetically enthusiastic about the fact they’re articulating that vision in a way that will lead others. I am also grievously concerned about the greatest threat to those intentions: The culture of Silicon Valley. Many of the loudest, most prominent voices within the tech industry, people who have Zuckerberg’s ear, are already thoughtlessly describing smart critique of the Initiative as “hating”, absurdly dismissing legitimate concerns as jealousy.

"Here’s the truth: No matter how good their intentions, the net result of most such efforts has typically been neutral at best, and can sometimes be deeply destructive. The most valuable path may well be to simply invest this enormous pool of resources in the people and institutions that are already doing this work (including, yes, public institutions funded by tax dollars) and trust that they know their domains better than someone who’s already got a pretty demanding day job. That may not be as appealing to the cult of disruption within the tech echo chamber, but would be exactly the kind of brave and unexpected move that might offer Max a great example of how to engage with the real world that the rest of us live in."
posted by naju at 9:18 AM on December 2, 2015 [17 favorites]




If this was just a money grab- why would they go so public with it?

He is required by the SEC to make announcements that might affect the stock of Facebook. You can see the Form 8-K filing here that was released yesterday.

The SEC filing indicates that he is not necessarily giving his stock away. He is simply transferring it from one of his pockets, to another of his pockets. He will retain ownership and voting rights to the stock in the LLC. This is not a taxable event since his is still owner of the stock. In fact, he may sell little or none of the stock in the LLC because he can simply borrow cash using the stock as collateral, thereby retaining his stock voting rights.
posted by JackFlash at 9:22 AM on December 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Look- I have worked startup and tech for most of my career. I am QUITE familiar with the posispeak , we are disrupting , making the world better gahahahhaggagagagga(I stopped listening in 2008 and just started collecting a paycheck) . With that in mind- people like this generally have drunk their own Kool Aide. And you know what? Some of them ARE the smartest people the room. Not the most socially advanced, or the people you want to have dinner with- but so blindingly brilliant that they float above the crowd on it. Most of them are fucking morons with a dollar and a dream- but given these people are floating on sleep deprived oxytocin of new parenthood- maybe, just maybe ,they mean it. And just having a charitable tax designation hasn't done shit for oversight on lots of US charities, which I challenge you to google as I am too busy ranting over here.

What it boils down to is : I want to believe that there is someone at least TRYING to do good. No one knows what that is going to look like. If I had all that cash- it would just be diamond plated hot tubs and imported ketchups all the way around.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 9:29 AM on December 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


The reason this makes a lot of people feel ambivalent is because the ability of one couple to donate $46b to charity is reflective of an enormous amount of power as well as money. And billionaires like the Zuckerbergs and others use that power to influence the political process to focus on their priorities. And in a real democracy, priorities for collective taxation and spending would be driven largely by the voters, not a handful of elites.

In addition, the Zuckerbergs are able to decide on the priorities for the charitable giving itself. Now, they will probably choose many worthy causes. But the fact remains that they are 2 people who get to decide all by themselves where that money goes, and with such an unequal distribution of wealth it's a troubling amount of power for such a small number of people to have.

I still think they deserve the kudos they're getting, but we ought to think deeply about the structures that allow a) so few to accumulate so much wealth, and b) for that wealth to influence decisions made by government that affect everyone.
posted by Asparagus at 9:32 AM on December 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


I want to believe that there is someone at least TRYING to do good.

And that's sort of the problem. Because the sense I get is that people want to believe that so much that they become willing to turn a blind eye to all the issues and problems. And as a result, we're too willing to give a free pass, because we want to believe too much.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:36 AM on December 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think that they probably do want to use that money for their priorities, because who wouldn't? If you could use your money to shape the world in your vision, why wouldn't you? But that doesn't mean there's not also some shadier stuff there.
posted by corb at 9:44 AM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some of them ARE the smartest people the room.

Definitely true, and arguably a tragedy that so much intellectual treasure has been invested in creating financial instruments and Silicon Valley startups, both of which tend to involve the smartest people in the room developing a highly myopic worldview and super-specialized skillset that they often think should apply to everything. The smartest people in the room are often bad at management and often have huge gaps in their knowledge, and the ones that impress me the most know the limits of their knowledge. In fact I slowly cultivated a "smartest guy in the room" persona at my last job through a crafty 50/50 division of being really good at thinking things through and offering opinions, and really good at saying "I don't have a freaking clue, let's bring in some people that do."

The smartest people in the room often work best with intense direction, and the best, most intense directors are in Wall Street and Silicon Valley. wahh
posted by aydeejones at 9:45 AM on December 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Besides attempts to buy elections the Kochs do a great deal of other charitable contribution. They donate to Lincoln Center, a non-profit that the poor cannot afford to attend. They donate to the Met, which while it can be entered for a penny, asks (and tries to pretend that you must pay) $25 for an adult to enter. They donate to Reason and the Cato foundation which argue that the Kochs should be taxed at a lower rate. They donate towards cancer research, which given their socioeconomic status, is one of the few diseases that really threatens them.

I'm not saying that Zuckerberg's donations will be as self-serving as the Koch's have been. In fact, his donation towards the Newark schools was not, even if a fifth of it did go to the educations failure industry. But the general belief that billionaires, because they have obtained billions, have a better right to dictate which areas receive funding and which do not. Good for him for giving his billions away. Now how the fuck did he obtain 45 billion dollars in the first place? Why did no one think, you know, we can probably do some good with that money now, as it accumulates in his coffers instead of waiting for our aristocracy to dole it out to us peasants?

I value what Gates is doing with regard to malaria. I shudder at the damage he is doing to our educational system. I wonder why a single individual gets to decide what gets money and what doesn't.
posted by Hactar at 9:45 AM on December 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


arguably a tragedy that so much intellectual treasure has been invested in creating financial instruments and Silicon Valley startups

Man, could you imagine if one of those people took their unimaginable wealth and announced they were going to use it to advance human potential and promote equality? People would love that.
posted by Nelson at 10:15 AM on December 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


advance human potential and promote equality? People would love that.

This is why going really public and producing a vague, but anodyne and positive message about what you're going to do with the money is effective: Anyone that expresses criticism is not only against Zuckerberg/Chan, they're against advancing "human potential and promoting equality". And on the birth of their first child no less!

Yup, this is why Zuckerberg and Chan are smartest folks in the room that made the big bucks that they're now going to give away (somehow).
posted by FJT at 10:26 AM on December 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


Gawker (I know) is less than sanguine.
Update: BuzzFeed’s Alex Kantrowitz confirmed with Facebook PR that The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is not even an actual charitable organization, but rather structured as an LLC. Unlike a charitable trust, which is compelled to spend its money on charity, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC will be able to spend its money on whatever it wants, including private, profit-generating investment.
I've heard of parenthood changing people, but this was more than I expected.

That would seem to be the crux of it. Seems like maybe he's dodging estate taxes by dumping his kid's inheritance into a shell company?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:48 AM on December 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Some of them ARE the smartest people the room. Not the most socially advanced, or the people you want to have dinner with- but so blindingly brilliant that they float above the crowd on it.

If they are supposed to be so smart, then they should also be socially aware. Just because we love to believe that every genius has asperger's does not mean it is true. Many of them are just fucking lazy and way too privileged to bother learning how to be nice to people who are not like them. Go figure.

If you could use your money to shape the world in your vision, why wouldn't you?

Because what if I am wrong about my vision? Because what if my vision means killing people through neglect? What if my vision is pretty much anathema to a safe and functional society?

advance human potential and promote equality?

Oh, you mean like the Human Potential Movement? Yeah, I really hope they are not in any way involved with that crowd, but somehow I think they probably are. It is one of the scarier monocultural movements that tends to promote a very blinkered worldview and has the potential (hah, get it?) of pretty much making a mess of society, more so than it already has (ask me how!).

And let's be very careful about equality. It is one of those magic words that means communism to some people and "color-blind" racist shit to others.


Also, unrelated to the above:
Mark Zuckerberg does not have $45 billion in cash. Please stop saying this. It is cartoonish and dumb. He has a valuation of $45 billion dollars ON PAPER. Were Facebook stock to nosedive, his net worth would drop considerably. Of course, the funny thing about having that much stock with that high of a valuation is that you can freaking borrow cash from a bank using that stock as collateral. Gee, no wonder people who are rich on paper never seem to have to worry about money. Sigh.
posted by daq at 11:00 AM on December 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, and another fun thing. You know all that work that Bill Gates Foundation did? When did you start hearing about it? Before they funded the programs? Or was it after they had already done the work first and then had something to show for it?

That is one of the major differences between this and Bill Gates. Gates "retired" from Microsoft and started working full time at the Gate Foundation, actually producing some work worthy of praise before touting his philanthropy. You really can't just say "I'm giving everything to charity" and just expect people to take it at face value (well, for some definition of people, I guess). I know Warren Buffet has been giving a lot to charity, but he is donating to existing charities that are already doing the work. So, yeah, we are not "hating" on this. We see if clearly for what it is. Next time do the work, then get the cookie.
posted by daq at 11:06 AM on December 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Anyone that expresses criticism is not only against Zuckerberg/Chan, they're against advancing "human potential and promoting equality". And on the birth of their first child no less!

And suggesting this, in itself, is seen as impossibly cynical and coldhearted. The daughter's birth ploy is like a wonderfully elegant checkmate. There's no way to counter it without seeming like the enemy of all that is good and holy. (You might even end up questioning yourself)
posted by naju at 11:18 AM on December 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Geez, when I found out that he was going to put it into a LLC, it just made me think that I hope everyone knows very well that an LLC =/= charity, and that being critical is good. I don't think anyone is being too negative here - there are real concerns and criticisms that a lot of people are sharing. We are benefiting from people sharing these critiques, so we can be more critical of those who contain those funds. Being optimistic doesn't cancel out the fact that we still need to be vigilant.
posted by yueliang at 11:30 AM on December 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Another important thing to keep in mind about wealth and charity is that there are many, many functions and services beneficial to the well-being of a country's citizenry and health of its economy that are impossible to accomplish in the non-profit sector, regardless of the amount of money available. Roads and bridges. Transit. The electrical grid. ie: public goods.

Hillary Clinton came out with a great and badly needed infrastructure plan (and of course Bernie Sanders has a much more ambitious one), but it's hard to pay for that stuff when the taxes of people like Mark Zuckerberg are too damn low, and there is no political will to raise them. All of the philanthropy and the world won't fix that.
posted by Asparagus at 12:27 PM on December 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Another important thing to keep in mind about wealth and charity is that there are many, many functions and services beneficial to the well-being of a country's citizenry and health of its economy that are impossible to accomplish in the non-profit sector, regardless of the amount of money available.

And that much of the charity is in places that even the government isn't really dealing with (e.g. malaria) or seeks to "supplement" governmental functions rather than add to or replace them, so these charitable expenditures don't mean that more resources are made available to solve other problems.
posted by Etrigan at 12:32 PM on December 2, 2015


At this point I think there is a laundry list of counterexamples showing the ways that "charity is great, don't hate" is an oversimplified model.
posted by polymodus at 1:10 PM on December 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


And I would love to see support for a progressive media apparatus on par with what the right has.

You are absolutely, positively, never ever ever going to see this from Zuckerberg and Chan.
posted by kelseyq at 4:15 PM on December 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Their not giving everything to charity, they're putting their assets in a trust to avoid taxes and to put them beyond the reach of lawsuits. The classic billionaire strategy is to put all major assets into a family trust, once you have a child, which just happened. For one thing it enables assets to be passed on to your kids without incurring inheritance taxes.

That's not to take away from the pile of money they have given to charity and will give in the future, but this step is standard billionaire dynasty tax avoidance not philanthropy.
posted by w0mbat at 4:53 PM on December 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oddly, 45 billion could keep the U.S. military going for about 35 days.

It could not buy a Ford class carrier though, if start up costs are added.
posted by clavdivs at 7:32 PM on December 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


stuff when the taxes of people like Mark Zuckerberg are too damn low

He did pay about a billion dollars in taxes when Facebook IPO'ed. Which is more than most of us will pay in a lifetime.

Taxes in the US are income-based, not asset-based (mostly) and that's a good thing. He's mostly rich on paper - I mean, he's adequately rich with actual money, but not $45B rich. When the stocks get sold, some tax (capital gains) will probably get paid. True the rich get a lot more loopholes than the poor, but it's not as if they guy pays no tax to the US government.
posted by GuyZero at 8:01 PM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: diamond plated hot tubs and imported ketchups all the way around
posted by trif at 1:52 AM on December 3, 2015




The classic billionaire strategy is to put all major assets into a family trust,

Well, ya put the 10 million into a trust. Anything over that amount requires a lot of planning and, at the end of the day, you're just transferring the growth on the assets, not the original amount.

What Zuck is doing isn't an estate planning play. It's a PR play. There's neither an income tax benefit nor an estate planning benefit here. (Unless they transfer LLC units to trust fbo kid)
posted by jpe at 5:56 AM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]




Jesse Eisinger, "How Mark Zuckerberg’s Altruism Helps Himself", New York Times:
Mark Zuckerberg did not donate $45 billion to charity. You may have heard that, but that was wrong.

Here’s what happened instead: Mr. Zuckerberg created an investment vehicle.
posted by grouse at 2:33 PM on December 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


What Zuck is doing isn't an estate planning play. It's a PR play. There's neither an income tax benefit nor an estate planning benefit here. (Unless they transfer LLC units to trust fbo kid)

The family trust owns the LLC. That's the only reason the LLC exists, to be owned by the family trust. This isn't a trust fund for the kid it's how all the Zuckerbergs keep all their stuff out of the taxman's hands.
posted by w0mbat at 4:18 PM on December 3, 2015


As of right now there doesn't appear to be a family trust. That would typically get disclosed in a form 4, so we'll know soon when beneficial interest is transferred to a trust.

There are non-tax reasons for LLCs. It could be there for a governance framework to teach the kid about philanthropy, or it could be part of the PR (transferring assets to an LLC sounds better than an ill-defined pledge to give in the future).
posted by jpe at 10:12 PM on December 3, 2015


Although there likely will be a trust in the future owning part of the LLC. If it's 10 billion, there's a 3.5 billion discount, so around 1.5 billion tax savings and 3 billion or so of tax (40% of the 6.5 billion FMV).

That said, the IRS is poised to issue regs to target family LLCs, so that strategy may not work so well in the future (as I'm sure his advisors have told him)
posted by jpe at 10:16 PM on December 3, 2015


Update from Zuckerberg.
posted by Nelson at 9:45 AM on December 4, 2015


The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is structured as an LLC rather than a traditional foundation. This enables us to pursue our mission by funding non-profit organizations, making private investments and participating in policy debates...

Not ominous at all. Everyone loves how the Koch Brothers participate in policy debates with their funding ...
posted by tocts at 10:29 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]




The control angle is kinda dumb. Zuck could easily set up his only charity and maintain control. What he doesn't want to give up is flexibility, the ability to do stuff the tax exemption either doesn't permit or makes harder.
posted by jpe at 6:17 AM on December 5, 2015


Jesse Eisinger, "How Mark Zuckerberg’s Altruism Helps Himself", New York Times

Awwww, why couldn't that have been written by Jesse Eisenberg? Come on, universe!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:07 PM on December 5, 2015


“We Don’t Want Mark Zuckerberg’s Charity,” Jason Farbman, Jacobin, 07 December 2015
Every dollar in Mark Zuckerberg’s private charity is a dollar wrested from public coffers — and democratic control.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:56 AM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every dollar in Mark Zuckerberg’s private charity is a dollar wrested from public coffers

Considering a significant portion of every dollar that ends up in public coffers goes toward less than altruistic military purposes, maybe that's not the worst thing ever.
posted by rocket88 at 3:59 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


If the options are to have the money controlled by a publicly elected body that may use some of the funding in ways I don't like, or to have it controlled by a single individual without anyone else having a say or oversight, I'll take the former, thanks.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:45 PM on December 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Some government money goes to the military, therefore it's better to just hope that random billionaires will tackle real social or infrastructural problems" is among the most irrational and counter-productive stances I've ever encountered. It's of a piece with "Some government money goes to Planned Parenthood, therefore we should gut the whole government and let the free market solve all problems".

If you recoil at the latter, maybe think about how ridiculous the former sounds as well.
posted by tocts at 1:00 PM on December 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Bill Gates' foundation is doing FAR more good with his money than the U.S. Government would have done.
I'm content to take Zuckerberg at his word that he plans to do similarly. Time will tell.
posted by rocket88 at 4:53 AM on December 11, 2015


Bill Gates' foundation is doing FAR more good with his money than the U.S. Government would have done.

Considering everything people have pointed out about the Gates Foundation in this thread, I'm going to have to call citation needed on that.


It's scary how many people feel that a single unaccountable person is more trustworthy than a publicly elected body.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:08 AM on December 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm going to have to call citation needed on that.

There's a long list on Wikipedia of Gates Foundation philanthropic intitiatives, with many further citations to follow from there. To pick one example, the Gates foundation pledged $1.8 billion of the $5.5B WHO wants for a 5 year program to finally eradicate polio. I'm not sure if that's part of or in addition to the $10B the Gates foundation has pledged to vaccination worldwide.

Unsurprisingly, when a foundation has $44B to spend some of the things they do will be criticized. If you look hard enough you'll find some anti-vaxxers claiming the Gates foundation vaccine is paralyzing and killing children in India. I have no doubt that the Gates Foundation has made mistakes and spent money on the wrong things in some places, although it's probably not polio. One Metafilter guy here is certain that their education programs are destroying education worldwide; that'd be worth a whole 'nother Metafilter post to discuss.

The choice for Zuckerberg isn't "should I give all this money to the US government or should I use it for philanthropy". The choice is "should I spend this money on yacht races and private islands or should I use it for philanthropy". Wealth is power, particularly in the United States. Zuckerberg has committed to apply that power to projects for the public good; in 10+ years we'll see whether he succeeded.
posted by Nelson at 7:42 AM on December 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, that actually doesn't answer the question, because there's more to things than "hey, look at all these things they fund". There are serious questions about the influence these organizations wield and what that means - for example, one of the reasons Common Core got traction so quickly and was pushed so heavily was because of the support of the Gates Foundation. (And it's worth remembering that when the backlash hit, Gates did a number of interviews where came across as confused and out of touch, not understanding why people were opposed to Common Core.) There's also worries that smaller NGOs with actual experience are getting crowded out because of the influence of the money involved. There's also the concern that these billionaires may use charitable giving as a means of control - read up on how Bloomberg used charitable giving to muzzle criticism of him as mayor of New York City.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:13 AM on December 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Do you need a citation on why vaccination against polio is a good thing?

Yes, there are questions about the influence that an organization like the Gates Foundation funds. There will be questions about Zuckerberg's foundation too. Money has influence and power.
posted by Nelson at 9:06 AM on December 11, 2015


This could be the moral compass guiding the spending of Zuckerberg's loot:
[The book that I am reading is] actually World Order by Henry Kissinger -- about foreign relations and how we can build peaceful relationships throughout the world. This is important for creating the world we all want for our children, and that's what I'm thinking about these days.
"Doing good" indeed.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:44 AM on December 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's scary how many people feel that a single unaccountable person is more trustworthy than a publicly elected body

I think it's scary how many people think the US government is a democratically elected body fulfilling the will of the majority of its citizens.
See: gerrymandering, systemic voter suppression, increasing role of money in election campaigns, superPACs, etc.
posted by rocket88 at 10:47 AM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think it's scary how many people think the US government is a democratically elected body fulfilling the will of the majority of its citizens.
See: gerrymandering, systemic voter suppression, increasing role of money in election campaigns, superPACs, etc.


You do realize that you are arguing that "the current system is flawed, so the solution is more of those flaws, but it's okay because these people are One Of Us", right?

Yes, our political system is rather fucked up at the moment, but even given all that, I will still take it happily over the aristocracy of the nouveau riche that seems to be so in vogue.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:01 AM on December 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


You do realize that you are arguing that "the current system is flawed, so the solution is more of those flaws, but it's okay because these people are One Of Us", right?

No, I'm arguing that the current system is flawed and should be fixed. But in the meantime, a zillionaire promising to do good with the bulk of his tax-free fortune is a hell of a lot better than what most other zillionaires are doing with theirs, and ought to be treated as a good thing until we see evidence otherwise.

It's not what I would consider an ideal solution, but we don't have any better ones at our immediate disposal.
posted by rocket88 at 11:33 AM on December 14, 2015


But in the meantime, a zillionaire promising to do good with the bulk of his tax-free fortune is a hell of a lot better than what most other zillionaires are doing with theirs, and ought to be treated as a good thing until we see evidence otherwise.

No, it shouldn't, for a number of reasons that have been expounded upon in this thread. There's the issue that what he thinks is "good" may be very different from what is actually good, that placing that level of influence in the hands of a single person is corrosive to our idea of how society should be governed, that the individual in question does not have a track record that instills confidence.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:07 PM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Economist article suggested another precedent for Zuckerberg's philanthropic structure: the Omidyar Network, potentially an $8B+ fund created by the eBay founder. It's a mix of a 501(c)(3) and an LLC and has strong tech industry interests. I haven't found many good articles on how it's done so far, although I imagine given the market-driven libertarian bent of its founder it won't be popular here. He's funding a very different set of things than Gates or Soros. Some of which have been a mess, First Look Media sure flamed out quickly. This Economist editorial talks about Omidyar's entrepreneurial philanthropy bent. This blog post is pretty skeptical, but has a good roundup of specific things that it's funded.
posted by Nelson at 4:00 PM on December 14, 2015


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