German Millionaires Criticise Gates’ ‘Giving Pledge’

Germany’s super-rich have rejected an invitation by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to join their ‘Giving Pledge’ to give away most of their fortune. The pledge has been criticized in Germany, with millionaires saying donations shouldn’t replace duties that would be better carried out by the state.

Last week, Microsoft founder Bill Gates attempted to convince billionaires around the world to agree to give away half their money to charity. But in Germany, the “Giving Pledge,” backed by 40 of the world’s wealthiest people, including Gates and Warren Buffet, has met with skepticism, according to Spiegel.

“For most people that is too ostentatious,” said the asset manager of one of the billionaires contacted by Gates, adding that many of the of the people contacted had already transferred larger proportions of their assets than the Americans to charitable foundations ‘without the publicity and fanfare that comes with a high profile pledge’. This includes Dietmar Hopp, the co-founder of the SAP business software company, who transferred some €2.9 billion to a foundation. Klaus Tschira, another founder of SAP, has handed more than half his wealth to a foundation.

The second more alarming criticism of the Gates Pledge is that it transfers power in the US from the state to the billionaires. This criticism is rooted in the fact that in the USA, the rich have the choice to either give their money away or pay taxes. By giving it away, they take the allocation of large funds away from the democratically elected central government and put it in the hands of the individual. This argument has been propounded by Peter Kramer, a Hamburg-based shipping magnate and multimillionaire who claims “what legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?”

Mr Krämer has emerged as one of the strongest critics of the “Giving Pledge.” Krämer, who donated millions of euros in 2005 to “Schools for Africa,” a program operated by UNICEF, explained his opposition to the Gates initiative in a Spiegel interview.

Interestingly, there are calls from some for British billionaires to join the ‘American revolution’, like Richard Branson, but should we be promoting this…really? You can read Matthew Bishop and Michael Green’s Guardian article which identifies potential UK billionaires who they think should be joining the Gates effort here. Let us know what you think of The Giving Pledge…

Categories: High Net Worth Individuals, Philanthropy

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