Members of the "lucky sperm club"
In an open letter published in Fortune in June, Warren Buffett made his "Philanthropic Pledge".
"More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death" was the commitment.
That was an incredibly kind and generous gesture, but for a man of his wealth and stature, he was remarkably humble. Having said that his commitment, measured by dollars, is large, he added that his family and himself will give up nothing they need or want by fulfilling the 99% pledge, whereas many individuals who regularly contribute to churches, schools and other organisations relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. He also said that the pledge does not leave him contributing his time, which is the most precious asset, admitting that he had given little person-to-person help that often proves far more valuable than money.
He then attributed his wealth to himself and his children having won the "ovarian lottery", quoting a combination of factors that have helped him remove huge obstacles, including being born and living in the US, being male, being white, and living in a market system that generally serves the country well. (Mr Buffett has elsewhere referred to those who grow up in wealthy circumstances as "members of the lucky sperm club".)
The reaction of his family and himself to their "extraordinary good fortune", Mr Buffett said, is "gratitude". And that is why they have decided to "keep all [they] can conceivably need and distribut the rest to society, for its needs."
It is worth noting that while Mr Buffett sees the market system as serving the US and himself well, he doesn't think it can address the root causes of poverty. He once said in an interview that "a market system has not worked in terms of poor people".
It is this view about the market system and poverty, along with other passions he shared with Bill Gates, such as their love for cherry Coke, burgers, college football, playing bridge, solving complex math problems and their distain for inherited, dynastic wealth, that has forged a close friendship between the two wealthiest men in the planet. This friendship has resulted in Mr Buffett donating USD31 billion to the charity foundation run by Mr Gates and his wife, and in the two launching a campaign that has so far successfully lobbied thirty-eight US billionaires to make "The Giving Pledge", which is pledging at least 50% of their wealth to charity.
Who can deny that the success of this "Giving Pledge" is attributed to Mr Buffett's "Philanthropic Pledge"?