Monday, September 13, 2010

Comment on Raj Patel's blog "The Daddy State"

This was a comment posted after reading Raj Patel's blog on "the Daddy State"

We have to question the motives behind the billionaire Giving Pledge. I think the whole idea is very self-serving. It’s another club for the rich. What is the cost to ultra-wealthy individuals for giving away half their wealth after they’re dead? I say nothing. They get philanthropy in their name which makes their name famous. And they decide who and what causes to give their money to. Is this any way to make society more equitable or fairer?

I know money is important on a small scale to buy all the essentials for life. Excess money gives you freedom because you can decide how it is spent. Those who have no money have very little freedom even if you’re a proud American. Hoarding money for securing a lifestyle that excess money brings is based on fear and selfishness rather than charity. Hoarding money by the ultra-rich allows them to enjoy the freedom money brings. And when they die, they don’t need freedom but they exercise their freedom by freely choosing which philanthropies to give to.

I think there are limits to using philanthropy as a preferred model of social progress and uplift (daddy state) same as there are limits to the good done by having socialized governments (nanny state). But the billionaire Giving Pledge only puts more focus on money. It does not generate virtues in individuals such as being more generous, charitable, trusting or helpful. The billionaire Giving Pledge is anti-egalitarian because it gives the billionaire a false sense of superiority over those in lower social status or those who don’t publically make the pledge but still want to improve society after they die.

Only removing the sense of superiority and inferiority in society can bring about a world where we live more as brothers and sisters rather than selfish individuals with little concern for the suffering of others in society. A society that centers itself on money will not be in sync with the vision of religious figures such as Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha or Krishna. Not matter how much the religious right wants to believe, America is not a God-centered culture. It is more based on selfishness rather than devotion. Even the concept of “God bless America” is selfish and self-serving. But at least we can enjoy the freedom that prosperity brings even if the society is not in the image of what God intended it to be.

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