Comments on: Philanthropy, stock-picking, and Presbyterian frugality http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/12/02/philanthropy-stock-picking-and-presbyterian-frugality/ A slice of lime in the soda Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:02 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 By: RyanDonovan1 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/12/02/philanthropy-stock-picking-and-presbyterian-frugality/comment-page-1/#comment-48763 Fri, 06 Dec 2013 18:24:54 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=22818#comment-48763 You really need to preface that whole piece with an introduction that you are about to flyspeck the relative virtues of various kinds of exceptional generosity. In life (maybe yachting) or death (maybe a colossal statue of himself), Mr. MacDonald could have just spent all of his money, and we have no reason to expect otherwise of people generally. Also, even while investing, he was giving society the benefit of his resources, instead of calling in his chips for personal consumption. “If he were really” more “philanthropically inclined” than almost everyone else, he might well have done exactly what he did.

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By: Newy http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/12/02/philanthropy-stock-picking-and-presbyterian-frugality/comment-page-1/#comment-48735 Tue, 03 Dec 2013 05:53:16 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=22818#comment-48735 Seems petty to pick on this guy. Of all the possible outcomes of the scenario- childless guy inherits millions of dollars at a young age- this seems like one of the best ones I can imagine. He apparently not only preserved the wealth, but, if we believe the story, may have actually grown it quite effectively before electing to give it away to charity. I certainly don’t begrudge the fact that he did so using a sustainable structure that ensures prolonged benefit from the trust.

Are you prepared to scold Bill Gates and Warren Buffet with similar logic because most their wealth will not be transferred until after they pass on?

Just doesn’t seem like someone who deserves to have shots taken at him posthumously.

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By: y2kurtus1 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/12/02/philanthropy-stock-picking-and-presbyterian-frugality/comment-page-1/#comment-48734 Tue, 03 Dec 2013 05:26:27 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=22818#comment-48734 Felix,
Most people, myself included, would agree that the most impact-full donors give deeply both during life and in death. Gates, Dell, Carnegie all fit that best of both worlds profile.

You could probably sanely argue that since the average quality of human life is at or near an all time high that past giving or early giving bests giving in the future.

I would argue that while the AVERAGE standard of living has never been higher in all of human history the ABSOLUTE number of suffering people is also at an all time high. Think about it in 1990 we had 5 billion brothers and sisters with about a billion of those living in pretty squalid poverty.

Hundreds of millions of those people have been lifted up in the ensuing 24 years… and yet we have grown our population so much that we still sadly have more desperately poor people than we started with. If you frame the debate in that way I could make a strong case that inter-generational gifting will find more hungry mouths to feed in 2025 than in 2015 2005 or 1995.

Best hopes for more saver/givers and less conspicuous consumers!

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By: y2kurtus1 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/12/02/philanthropy-stock-picking-and-presbyterian-frugality/comment-page-1/#comment-48733 Tue, 03 Dec 2013 04:19:48 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=22818#comment-48733 Felix I can get behind the idea that the best givers (like Carnegie, Gates, Dell ect) give deeply both during life and in death.

I’m not sure I can follow you to the premise that a large one-time gift will have a greater positive impact on society than a sustained effort over time.

I believe you would agree that the average quality of human life has never been greater on planet earth than it is today. While some people would surely debate that assertion, I can’t think of any measurable statistic like GDP per Capita or global average life expectancy which would not point to the present day being the high water mark of human achievement. This idea would lend itself to you point that past giving bests future giving.

The flip side of that coin is that while the AVERAGE quality of life has never been higher than today the ABSOLUTE number of people living in truly squalid poverty has also probably never been higher (7 billion people now very unevenly share the earths resources vs 5 billion very unevenly sharing the worlds resources in 1990.) I probably could have worded that in a much simpler way. The percentage of the worlds population suffering has declined slowly but steadily over time… but the number of people suffering has still inexorably risen as the population has risen sharply.

If you agree with that 2nd world view (and I’m not sure how you could dispute it) than giving the 5% minimum in perpetuity is better than giving 20times as much today because there will always be more mouths to feed and minds to educate tomorrow until the moment the human race controls it’s overpopulation.

This is your best post of 2013 by the way!… very thought provoking!

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By: samadamsthedog http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/12/02/philanthropy-stock-picking-and-presbyterian-frugality/comment-page-1/#comment-48732 Tue, 03 Dec 2013 03:33:56 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=22818#comment-48732 Hey, WangZhu, if you’re reading the blog for the first time, how do you know Felix is stuck in the same place?

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By: mmjjss http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/12/02/philanthropy-stock-picking-and-presbyterian-frugality/comment-page-1/#comment-48731 Tue, 03 Dec 2013 02:52:25 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=22818#comment-48731 Felix, I love your counter-intuitiveness takes, but I think you’re way off base here for a few reasons:

1. Shouldn’t you respect the notion that this man probably doesn’t believe in a strong Efficient Market Theory? True, we don’t know where he started, or even if he did beat the market whether it was from blind luck or better-than-average picking. But it doesn’t matter since any investor has the right to try to beat the market. And if he truly thought he could beat the market, then it made more sense for him to maintain control of his money to grow it faster until the time of his death. How can you criticize him, and not Warren Buffett who seems to undertake a similar philosophy with a large chunk of his fortune?

2. It’s absurd in the vast scope of human history (and the human suffering that has always shadowed it), that you really think giving money 20 or 30 measly years earlier than he did is going to make such a vast difference! Plus, with technological advances, it could actually be better to wait. Take anti-viral HIV drugs for instance. One could argue money invested now could go farther to eliminating AIDS deaths than 20 years ago. Or, if he gave money in the go-go late-90s as opposed to now, my guess is there were less food banks in need back then.

3. Cheap shot on the building names. Most people wouldn’t settle for that when they were in the ground if they could also have their ass kissed while they were living and still be part of a ceremony where the naming rights were announced and applauded. I’m sorry your name on a building would sound like a cat food factory, but give this dude a break for still giving it up for charity.

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By: Dean_Weez http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/12/02/philanthropy-stock-picking-and-presbyterian-frugality/comment-page-1/#comment-48730 Tue, 03 Dec 2013 01:32:36 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=22818#comment-48730 A deeper question lurking here is: what discount rate ought we apply to charity? MacDonald (or at least Felix here) has the utilitarian objective of allocating capital towards the alleviation of human suffering. One has the choice of spending the marginal dollar on $1 of charity today or $1*(1+r) next year. Is the discount rate on future suffering higher or lower than the return on capital?

If MacDonald was in fact good at picking stocks and/or had little sentimentality towards the present, NOT giving to charity would be a rational moral imperative. The same holds true for his charitable trust. Is 10 vaccines today better than 20 a year from now? How about ten years from now? On what basis can we make this decision? And is implied discount rate mere personal preference?

Not trying to claim that MacDonald had gamed it all out like this, but these are important questions if you want to promote the “front-load charity” philosophy.

Also I don’t think rising average living standards are that relevant to the moral calculus. What’s important is the neediness of the actual recipients of charity, not the average person. A homeless, destitute person today may be as miserable as one fifty years ago despite an increase in car ownership per capita or what have you. This is especially true if targeting charity on a global scale.

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By: Dean_Weez http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/12/02/philanthropy-stock-picking-and-presbyterian-frugality/comment-page-1/#comment-48729 Tue, 03 Dec 2013 00:56:19 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=22818#comment-48729 A deeper question lurking here is: what discount rate ought we apply to charity? MacDonald (or at least Felix here) has the utilitarian objective of allocating capital towards the alleviation of human suffering. One has the choice of spending the marginal dollar on $1 of charity today or $1*(1+r) next year. Is the discount rate on future suffering higher or lower than the return on capital?

If MacDonald was in fact good at picking stocks and/or had little sentimentality towards the present, NOT giving to charity would be a rational moral imperative. The same holds true for his charitable trust. Is 10 vaccines today better than 20 a year from now? How about ten years from now? On what basis can we make this decision? And is implied discount rate mere personal preference?

Not trying to claim that MacDonald had gamed it all out like this, but these are important questions if you want to promote the “front-load charity” philosophy.

Also I don’t think rising average living standards are that relevant to the moral calculus. What’s important is the neediness of the actual recipients of charity, not the average person. A homeless, destitute person today may be as miserable as one fifty years ago despite an increase in car ownership per capita or what have you. This is especially true if targeting charity on a global scale.

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By: SamYang http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/12/02/philanthropy-stock-picking-and-presbyterian-frugality/comment-page-1/#comment-48728 Mon, 02 Dec 2013 22:23:53 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=22818#comment-48728 So Felix, how much you have given over the years?
Do you actually follow what you preach?
I am curious to know.

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By: AlanVanneman http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/12/02/philanthropy-stock-picking-and-presbyterian-frugality/comment-page-1/#comment-48727 Mon, 02 Dec 2013 22:01:48 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=22818#comment-48727 What a grumpy commenter you are, anonymous commenter. I think Felix is spot on. MacDonald could, and should have given his money away earlier, unless his real pleasure in life was being courted by would-be recipients of his largess. And trusts that allow the dead to control the living are ridiculous, monuments to human vanity and the ability of the rich to get their way in everything.

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