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What do you think primarily motivates charitable gestures by the very rich?

1) Generosity: people who are not really aware of income inequality and genuinely feel they are doing good by being charitable.

2) Cynicism: people who are aware they make way more money than the efforts of one person can possibly justify but rather than calling for reform or just paying their employees more they like to keep most of the money for themselves, donating a small portion to charity to boost their image and buy off dissent among the people.

3) Pragmatism: people who aware they make way too much but believe they can't change the system and use their wealth (and the tax deduction) to direct as much money as possible to causes that they champion and (in their eyes) get too little attention from the government.

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    Sep 19 2012: What motivates rich people is the same thing that motivates them in business which is to help people, they realize that we are all in the same boat. Realize these people's actions speak for themselves in that they raise the standard of living of their customer. In other words they are not glib.

    What is completely irrelevant is the Wilkinson meme who is the epitome of glib, and your 3 conjectures.
    • Sep 19 2012: "What motivates rich people is the same thing that motivates them in business which is to help people,"

      The very rich don't work, they watch their stock go up, or their trust fund collect interest. Why do you believe rich people would work to help people? Most non-rich people don't work for that reason, why would the rich, and if so, why wouldn't they just pay their employees more or lower their prices if they want to raise the standard of living of the people?
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        Sep 19 2012: Rich people are some of the hardest working people I have seen if anything that is their one common characteristic.

        The primary purpose of most people is to help.

        Quit drinking the Kool Aid and LOOK for yourself.
        • Sep 19 2012: Which rich people do you know? FYI I wasn't talking about surgeons, I was talking about the very rich, most of whom do not work (though they may have in the past).

          How is keeping so much wealth for yourself going to help others? Why not let the company you own stock in use the room that profit provides to lower prices, raise wages or invest more in R&D? Every single study done concludes that an increase in income inequality make a country worse off because consumers have less purchasing power, workers feel like they're being underpaid, political powers becomes concentrated and social mobility goes down. And at the core, nobody contributes enough to the world to justify receiving the wealth of a billionaire and great people (like Albert Einstein, Neil Armstrong and Mother Teresa) don't pretend that they do, only the phonies do, the swindlers and husslers who buy politicians to have laws rewritten for them, who sell toxic mortgages 500 times until some sucker falls for it.
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        Sep 19 2012: Who helped mankind more Michael Milken or Sister Teresa?

        http://www.mikemilken.com/myths.taf
        • Sep 19 2012: Really? Michale Milken? A man who never created wealth, he only shifted it around, and even destroyed wealth because of his fraudulent practices that discouraged investment (some of which must have been investment in useful things) and is hoarding many, many natural resources for himself? That's the guy you want to compare to Mother Theresa? Why do people always forget that while Milken may have given $100 million to medical research, he stole billions of dollars from corporations and consumers.You think his $100 million donation is going to do more than all the donations and investments consumers and corporations would have made if they had not lost $2 billion to Milken?

          You sound like an easy target: I can rob you blind and then give you a $5 for the subway and you'd believe I was being charitable for giving you "my" $5.

          Until someone single handedly saves the planet from an alien invasion nobody deserves to be a billionaire, it's just not humanly possible to contribute so much when there are only 24 hours in a day.
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        Sep 19 2012: "nobody deserves to be a billionaire"

        And that is your real point.

        Plenty of people deserve to be a billionaire are as they have raised the standard of living of many.
        • Sep 19 2012: "And that is your real point."

          Indeed.

          "Plenty of people deserve to be a billionaire are as they have raised the standard of living of many."

          BS, nobody contributes 100.000 times more to the standard of living than a worker. Not even Albert Einstein. You may be referring to technological progress benefitting many people but most billionaires can barely put a PC together, they never invented anything and the ones that do can't possibly be entitled to the wealth that gets released by the invention across the world and through the ages, because that would mean that a) inventors deserve more compensation if the world population is larger, b) every parent would be entitled to unlimited wealth because of the contributions their descendants will offer to the world, c) it's not like the invention wouldn't have been done by someone else a few years later, d) most inventors had help, e) an invention itself does not improve the world, for that to happen millions of workers and engineers have to implement and produce it over and over, without them the invention is worthless, f) every worker can also claim unlimited wealth because he helped to feed, cloth or shelter an inventor, or he just paid the taxes that provided for the inventor's scholarship and so made the invention possible.

          It's much more rational to look at someone's level of personal effort. Whether you're a scientist or someone doing backbreaking physical labor, in both cases you contribute 8 hours of effort per day that helps society, in whatever way comes natural to you. The scientists doesn't have to be motivated to be a scientist because he dislikes backbreaking physical labor and the laborer doesn't have to motivate to labor because he dislikes doing math. But as I said, most people get rich in the financial sector, probably doing more harm than good to scoiety when playing with derivatives they don't understand and serve no purpose other than to enrich bankers.
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        Sep 21 2012: John, I took your question pretty seriously until I saw this exchange with Pat. I'm afraid I agree with both Pat and Krisztian in their responses here. People are complex and do things for their own reasons, which cannot typically be boiled down to 3 or 4 broad categories. I'm sure most truly mean to make a difference in the world, while not being irresponsible with their resources.

        Rich people (even the ultra rich) are also typically VERY hard working and carry daily schedules that would likely exhaust most other people. Although there are exceptions to every generalization, in percentage terms, I believe the days of the idle rich reached their peak from Victorian times through about the 1930s. I don't have any data to back up that perception but it's probably about as sound an argument as yours that "the very rich don't work."

        It's a great fantasy to believe that if a person can just get enough wealth, they can just sit back and enjoy it for the rest of their lives, and I'm sure that's what drives the success of lotteries. Unfortunately, watching stock portfolios magically rise, while sitting by the pool 24x7 is indeed just a fantasy.

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