By Morgan Phelps
(Posted August 2007)
Billionaires obviously have the power to transform the business world, from computers to the petroleum industry, but do they have the same power and drive to put their billions to use for humanitarian good?
On the 2007 Forbes’ World's Billionaires
list were 946 individuals whose accumulated wealth totaled $3.5 trillion. Americans made up five out of the top 20 — including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — and accounted for 44 percent of the entire list.
But it seems that billionaires don’t find fulfillment in holding a large portion of the world’s riches in their hands. Instead, they find joy in sharing their wealth with the world’s materially poor.
And their effort is having a huge impact.
An article in Time Magazine in May 2007 said, “If today’s billionaires were to pool their resources, they could outflank the world’s governments in ending poverty and pandemic disease.”
John D. Rockefeller, the world’s first billionaire, was also a well-known philanthropist who established the Rockefeller Foundation
. His foundation has granted $14 billion since its creation and has been a longtime supporter of medical, agricultural, and educational development.
Bill Gates has followed in Rockefeller’s tradition by establishing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
which attempts to use technology to end global poverty. Buffett is also a large contributor to the Gates Foundation.
George Soros, Ted Turner and Steve Case are among the many philanthropic billionaires using their funds, connections, and business developments to create global change. The US government’s paltry international aid of just 0.17% of the national budget pales in comparison to the effort of just a few billionaires.
But although the richest people in the world are sharing their wealth philanthropically, the world’s suffering requires help from even the “multi-thousandaires” — people like ourselves whose cumulative impact can be revolutionary.
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