Just this month, Warren Buffett announced plans to give away more than $2.6bn (£1.7bn) of stock in his Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate to charities, in the latest round of annual gifts since he outlined plans to give away most of his wealth in 2006. But now his son has publicly questioned the trend of big-ticket giving by the rich when the “existing structure of inequality” is left unchallenged.
In a New York Times op-ed published last week, Peter Buffett said: “As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to ‘give back.’ It’s what I would call ‘conscience laundering’ – feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.”
The musician, who himself co-chairs the Novo Foundation, a philanthropic organisation founded in 2006 after Warren Buffett pledged to donate Berkshire stock, has been active in philanthropy with his wife since 1997. In his op-ed, he said he that early on he had become “aware of something I call Philanthropic Colonialism”.
“I noticed that a donor had the urge to ‘save the day’ in some fashion. People, including me, who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem,” he wrote.
He said that, while so much inequality exists, “money should [instead] be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market .”
“Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine,” he wrote.