Zuckerbergs' Philanthropy: A 'Big Waste'?

Move meets some scorn online
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2015 11:38 AM CST
Zuckerbergs' Philanthropy: A 'Big Waste'?
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg, with daughter Max.   (Mark Zuckerberg via AP)

The announcement by Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg that they'll donate 99% of their Facebook shares—$45 billion at today's value—to a foundation they created with the birth of their daughter isn't being met with universal praise. Some examples:

  • 'Big waste': "It sounds angelic, but it will probably end up being, mostly, a big waste," writes Sam Biddle at Gawker. For one thing, the money is going to the Zuckerbergs' own foundation instead of, say, Oxfam, and the broad goals of "advancing human potential and promoting equality" are mushy. "Does anyone really want to experience '100 times more than we do today,' whatever that entails?" asks Biddle. "Do you want to be 'connected' to literally every 'idea' and 'person' in the world? This is a technocrat’s dream and an actual normal human being’s nightmare." It's emblematic of the code-fixes-all philosophy of Silicon Valley, "and Zuckerberg’s massive giveaway will clearly be predicated on that conceit." Here's the full piece, whose headline refers to Zuckerberg's "blinkered worldview."

  • 'Imperial roots': This kind of giving perpetuates inequality and smacks of imperialism, writes Devon Maloney at the Guardian. The "rich are still effectively buying the future they’d like to see, no matter how selfless their intentions may be," she writes. "International philanthropy and the western world’s desire to eradicate poverty and disease can’t ever truly rid themselves of their imperialist roots." Maloney also cites the "white savior industrial complex" in the full piece.
  • More on that: A writer at Forbes pushes back hard against the Guardian piece, calling it a "misunderstanding of economics," while the Washington Post recalls a German billionaire's argument that having the rich, and not the state, decide what people need is a "really bad" idea.
  • Not a charity: It's not exactly a slam, but Alex Kantrowitz points out at BuzzFeed that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is structured as an LLC, not a charitable trust, as much coverage is suggesting. Meaning that not all of the money will go to charity; some will go into profit-generating private investment.
  • 'Guardedly optimistic': Not all the reaction is skeptical, of course. At Slate, Jordan Weissmann calls the move "admirable," adding that "I think that as a rule, we would all prefer that our modern overlords give away their riches rather than pass them on to their children." Plus, he thinks the Zuckerbergs have learned lessons from previous charitable misfires, and so he is "guardedly optimistic," despite the still-vague goals. "These seem like the sorts of endeavors that aren't going to cause a lot collateral damage, and may well do some actual good." The full piece.
  • Read the Zuckerbergs' announcement, in the form of a letter to their daughter.
(More Mark Zuckerberg stories.)

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