Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How to completely abrogate public responsibility

I have not, by any means, given up on our collective responsibility for our fellow humans (despite some accusations to the contrary) even though I write about the potential contributions of the private sector and individuals to a better world.

If you want to see the thinking of one who has, simply follow the advice quoted here (though I will note that the post was laced with irony). Jeffrey Sachs noted that the 3.5 trillion USD net worth of the world's 950 billionaires spins of $175 billion annually at the 5% payout rate practiced by most US foundations.

“... $175bn per year – that would do it. Then we don’t need the G8 but 950 people on the Forbes list,” said Mr Sachs. “Maybe private philanthropists will champion solutions to individual problems rather than the G8,” he said.
The Panelist, who brought the quote to my attention, noted that $175 bn would also fund the US/Iraq war and perhaps the billionaires would like to pick up that tab.


Pete said...

Great observation. Maybe the challenge should be to think of how to get those 950 billionaires to really participate in a shared public commitment. The trend of public policies in the U.S. at least has been the opposite, to reduce the requirements of citizenship on those who, ironically, both have more to repay and are best able to do it. Sachs's observation puts the enormous potential power of these billionaires in stark relief. What if they turned the tables and started using their substantial philanthropic power as leverage to attract matching commitments from governments of the major economic powers?

Gillian said...

$175bn won't go near funding the Iraq War. In his Reith lecture for the BBC last week, Sachs quotes $650bn cost for one year of the Iraq War and contrasts this with the $4bn the US is contributing to African aid.

It seems like a neat idea to get 5% from 950 people who won't feel the cost. I just can't see it happening on a systemic scale.