June 26, 2006

Better and better...

Is there anything better than the spectacle of the world's second richest man turning over the vast preponderance of his fortune to the world's richest man -- a man whom just last week announced that he planned to devote the rest of his life, and much of his own staggering wealth, toward the overall improvement of the world? Yes I know that was an unwieldy sentence... deal with it.

The resources at the disposal of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation prior to Buffet's gift were in the range of 30 Billion dollars. Buffet's gift, essentially a matching contribution due to the stipulation that the money may not go into merely increasing the foundation's endowment, is also in the range of being worth 30 Billion dollars. When all the math is done, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be dispersing between 2 - 3 Billion dollars a year to the causes they find most significant.

Most recently popularized by Spiderman, the idea that "with great power comes great responsibility" has its roots in the 19th century concept of noblesse oblige. Strictly translated from the French as "nobility obligates," noblesse oblige derives from the philanthropic belief that those on whom fortune has bestowed riches and power should use their influence to improve the lot of those less-fortunate.

In a stark and disappointing comparison of the wealthy and the powerful in America this month, on one hand we have the US government which has committed the vast and mighty resources of our great nation to the tremendously divisive issues of flag burning, gay marriage, and the estate tax while on the other hand we have the two richest men in America exemplifying all that is best and greatest about Americans by returning the concept of noblesse oblige to the top of the national dialogue.

Warren Buffet has some great things to say about being rich if you've got a few minutes to read...

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