Blogs > Cliopatria > Buffett's billions

Jun 26, 2006 6:50 pm

Buffett's billions

Wow. THIS is truly astounding. Of course, it begs the question - what is the most effective way to spend $44 billion on the world's insecure? What are the mechanisms that could best use the money, and what are the threats that most need attention? The Gates Foundation believes it's on communicable disease, a tough argument to counter given that 18,000,000 people a year die from preventable illness. Interested in thoughts...
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Ralph E. Luker - 6/27/2006

Greg, In one of the later Thomas Dixon novels, the central character is (of course) a Thomas Dixon-like preacher in NYC (as Dixon had been), for whom a Rockefeller-like tycoon builds a massive bully-pulpit church, like Riverside. We can be grateful that Rockefeller took to Harry Emerson Fosdick, rather than to Thomas Dixon.

Greg James Robinson - 6/27/2006

This discussion reminds me of the section of TITAN, Ron Chernow's biography of John D. Rockefeller--I wonder whether Buffett has read it. The book details his agonizing over how best to use his "trusteeship" to provide scientific charity instead of being beseiged by requests for donations, and to help humanity in a systematic way or simply sustaining the poor. It was the struggle to do good, and not his accumulation of money, that aged Rockefeller. His grants, too, focused on medical research (e.g. Rockefeller University and the medical college in China), education (notably the University of Chicago) and religion (Riverside Church, etc.)

Jonathan Dresner - 6/27/2006

I like that one. Gates foundation could fund it out of their spare-laptop budget....

Lisa Casanova - 6/27/2006

How about asking the poorest people what they need most?

R.J. O'Hara - 6/26/2006

This might be an opportunity for historians (far more knowledgeable than me) to remind us about the forgotten inventions of the 19th-century and before that made so many social transformations possible in Europe and North America. I might vote for:

1. Local facilities for clean water treatment.

2. Decentralized rural electrification via low-maintenance solar power and microhydro.

3. Universal primary schooling and provision of thousands of basic school libraries (the spirit of Andrew Carnegie lives).

4. Support for private property rights.

Manan Ahmed - 6/26/2006

My proposal is still on the table looking for funds.

chris l pettit - 6/26/2006

Although I must say that the Gates Foundation is doing quality work as well.

I would go with Amnesty International, the world food program, or some of the UN programs that deal with economic, social and cultural rights.

Another possibility would be groups such as the Mind and Life institute that seek to get away from archaic ideas of individualism and state sovereignty and attempt to apply what science is learning and discovering to ideas of good governance.

My only problem with the countering illness angle is that it seems reactionary and addressing the problem on the periphery instead of at the core...when we address the issues that create the conditions that allow these illnesses to run rampant (denial of rights, ignoring the rule of law and international legal authority, illegal wars, insistence on sovereignty, etc), then we will be practicing adaptive management and proactive advocacy and will be able to make more of a difference. That being said, we still need those who will address the pressing needs of trying to deal with the immediate problems of starvation and disease.


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