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Monday, 3 June 2019

Its fashionable to denigrate the rich

I recently posted about the criticism that had been leveled at some French billionaires when they gave generously to the Notre Dame restoration campaign. It seems that rather than being seen as altruistic, charitable giving by 'the rich' is nowadays often derided as being either a) pretentious ("see how much I can afford to give"), b) meaningless ("oh well, they can afford it, can't they?"), or c) evidence of the 1% problem ("no-one should have that much money!").

An article in today's SMH showed a similar vein of disdain when reporting that a charity fund-raiser had 'only' raised $3m for a worthy cause: "But before we send out the cheer squad, let's be real - that's chump change when the room is collectively worth around $25 billion."

Now, while $3m is only 0.012% of the net worth of the participants, that isn't actually too small an amount for a one-off fund-raising event. Just consider, an 'average' Sydney home-owner that doesn't have too large a mortgage will have a net worth of at least $1m. So this sort of giving is equivalent to an 'average Joe' making a $120 donation when the Red Cross or Salvos come knocking at their door, or spending $120 at a silent auction at a school Fete. This wouldn't be a huge amount, but it is still well north of the usual $10 or $20 amount (or less) people often give to charity at one time (indeed, the median charitable donations annual total for Australian taxpayers is only $200 or so). So I'm not sure that describing this quanta (0.012% of NW) of giving as 'chump change' would be warranted when talking about the average person. So why deride similar levels of giving by 'the rich'?

Criticizing people for philanthropy doesn't seem either nice nor productive - it is more likely to make them not bother to turn up at fund-raisers than to make them donate more. In any case, this particular article seemed to be motivated by the reporter not being invited to attend the event.

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