The only good billionaire is a former billionaire
September 25, 2020 7:57 AM   Subscribe

 
From 2017: ‘James Bond of Philanthropy’ Gives Away the Last of His Fortune. (Not sure, but seems the last grant was awarded in 2017 and the last payment was made this year.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:07 AM on September 25, 2020 [1 favorite]


This is noble and laudable, but should not be possible.
posted by mhoye at 8:33 AM on September 25, 2020 [31 favorites]


Good for him. Still should have been paying it in taxes all along.
posted by potrzebie at 8:38 AM on September 25, 2020 [29 favorites]


This is noble and laudable, but should not be possible.

I know what you mean, but in a world where billionaires do, unfortunately, exist, I would say that it should not only be possible, it should be mandatory.

But yeah, ideally no one person would ever have that much money in the first place.
posted by jedicus at 8:39 AM on September 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


Excellent goal, and excellent execution of it.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:49 AM on September 25, 2020 [1 favorite]


I know what you mean, but in a world where billionaires do, unfortunately, exist, I would say that it should not only be possible, it should be mandatory.

If only there was a way for billionaires to have their wealth mandatorily redistributed in a democratically accountable way that isn't subject to their personal whims and opinions.

We could call it Taxly.
posted by Ouverture at 8:54 AM on September 25, 2020 [66 favorites]


That's cool I guess, but one of the reasons I prefer gigantic taxes over charity is that I would prefer no one be the arbiter of "who deserves this money".
posted by graventy at 8:55 AM on September 25, 2020 [13 favorites]


I would prefer no one be the arbiter of "who deserves this money".

I'm not sure how you think tax revenues are distributed, but...
posted by spacewrench at 8:59 AM on September 25, 2020 [34 favorites]


But yeah, ideally no one person would ever have that much money in the first place.
I hope that we can normalize paying taxes and increasing employee wages as part of the solution, rather than philanthropy, which consolidates billionaires' power.

On the one hand, Atlantic Philanthropies has done important work. On the other, I wonder how much DFS Group workers are paid, and how increasing that pay across the board might be more impactful than any given grant-based project.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:59 AM on September 25, 2020 [5 favorites]


That's cool I guess, but one of the reasons I prefer gigantic taxes over charity is that I would prefer no one be the arbiter of "who deserves this money".

And you think the government doesn't do that? Try applying for disability, food stamps, or other government social programs sometime.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:59 AM on September 25, 2020 [9 favorites]


Having met the terms of the will, he can now inherit the $80 billion.
posted by RobotHero at 9:01 AM on September 25, 2020 [25 favorites]


And you think the government doesn't do that? Try applying for disability, food stamps, or other government social programs sometime.

Yes, and it was the extremely wealthy that "reformed" welfare under the guise of bipartisanship and turned it into a miserable hellscape and convinced everyone else that it was the right thing to do.
posted by Ouverture at 9:04 AM on September 25, 2020 [11 favorites]


We could call it Taxly.

Like Uber, but for the insanely wealthy.
posted by nubs at 9:29 AM on September 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


Makes me hate Bezos even more (and I didn't think that was possible).
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 10:10 AM on September 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


It’s good that he did this, but besides all of the issues with a system relying on discretionary philanthropy, I feel like we never talk about the externalities that this sort of concentration of wealth incurs in the first place. The people from whom this wealth was extracted have effectively paid interest on that extraction just as he’s earned interest on the same, and likely not everything they’ve paid is capable of being reimbursed: you won’t ever be paid back for your bum ankle that set poorly because you couldn’t afford to see a doctor about it. He’s come far closer than his peers, but there’s no clearing the red from the ledger completely on this type of accumulation.
posted by invitapriore at 10:11 AM on September 25, 2020 [16 favorites]


The only person eligible to be my favorite billionaire is someone who is not a billionaire.

The system is fucked, but good on him for understanding that power comes with responsibility.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:14 AM on September 25, 2020 [1 favorite]


It's not hard to understand that - read Spider-Man comics.

Then again, most billionaires willfully refuse to understand that...
posted by notsnot at 10:31 AM on September 25, 2020


And you think the government doesn't do that?
In most cases "the government" implies decision making by more than one person. It isn't perfect, but it's still a step up for accountability and from having all that economic power vested in a single person.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:32 AM on September 25, 2020 [7 favorites]


Feeny has also donated $870m to human rights groups (including $62m in grants to groups campaigning to end the death penalty in the US, and $76m to grassroots campaigns supporting the passage of Obamacare.)


That’s pretty cool. We may never know how much these donations ended up influencing those causes.
posted by darkstar at 10:33 AM on September 25, 2020 [4 favorites]


Good on 'im, I say. He will be remembered as a good man.

It's a shame that it took The Gospel of Wealth for him to see sense. Andrew Carnegie was a horrible little shit who bought favour with the proceeds of the suffering of thousands. Carnegie published the Gospel suspiciously soon after a dam — belonging to a country club he and his rich cronies developed — burst and killed over 2000 people downstream. So yeah, fuck trickle-down economics.
posted by scruss at 10:35 AM on September 25, 2020 [11 favorites]


Still should have been paying it in taxes all along.
Like his billionaire peers, over the course of decades Feeney benefitted from a low business tax rate, a low income tax rate, and philanthropy-related tax breaks. But Feeney's professional success is a celebration of tax avoidance in general, as the business he co-founded in 1960 was Tourists International -- which became Duty Free Shoppers (DFS).
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:59 AM on September 25, 2020 [4 favorites]


And you think the government doesn't do that? Try applying for disability, food stamps, or other government social programs sometime.

So what? With the government in charge of that money, there is at least the possibility of a more equitable distribution. That is, if you can keep Republicans and a sizeable swath of corporate Democrats away from things...which is a large majority of Washington, hence the current relative impossibility of it. But in principle, "the people" would be better arbiters than just Some Guy.

He gave almost a billion of his money to Cornell University, his alma mater. Would the U.S. government have found a better use of that? Maybe not these days, but imagine if Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, say, were the president along with a Democratic House and Senate (hey a guy can dream, right?). I'd be much more comfortable with those arbiters than whimsy and moods and personal quirks of individuals.

Standing ovation Feeny for doing this, no one would argue that. But it's not good governance to rely on that kind of charity. He could've just as easily hoarded all that money. Or worse, like the Koch brothers, used the money to protect even more money.
posted by zardoz at 1:23 PM on September 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


Imagine if billionaires like Bezos or the Waltons actually paid good wages for employees ... Sounds even better than taxly because taxly funds killing machines, both blue and camo.
posted by nofundy at 3:27 PM on September 25, 2020


The bio-research institute where I have worked since the building went up in 2004 was established with a co-investment between Chuck Feeney and the state government. It's now a leading research institute in Australia and does fantastic research in fundamental biology as well as into diseases and medicines. Thanks Chuck!
posted by drnick at 3:33 PM on September 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


I share exactly this sentiment. It's quite possible that I'll never become a billionaire but I'll do it on my own scale.

Though Jeff Bezos hasn't signed the Giving Pledge - "a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back" - his now ex-wife is pledging to donate half of her wealth.
posted by bendy at 12:07 AM on September 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


Of course the government does that. I'm a strong opponent of means testing in any form.

That said I know that if a Muslim applies for food stamps and a Christian applies for food stamps, and they both did the paperwork, the government isn't going to pick favorites.

(The paperwork is, of course, as complicated as possible and far far easier for native English speakers to fill out. Yay for bureaucracy!)
posted by graventy at 7:04 AM on September 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


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