‘Noli equi dentes inspicere donati (Do not inspect the teeth of a given horse) – St. Jerome, The Letter to the Ephesians, circa AD 400
Earlier in the week, I came across a Washington Post article about Michael Bloomberg donating $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. I have been thinking about it all week, and I decided it was an appropriate topic for Thanksgiving Day. The article discusses what the writer called the “problem” with Bloomberg’s donation. The gist of the article is that Bloomberg should have given his money elsewhere, or better yet, given even more. Forget about giving thanks. Let me tell you how to give!
Specifically, she argued that because less than half of Johns Hopkins students receive financial aid, it would be more appropriate to give the money to another university – she used the City University of New York (CUNY) as an example – which has a much greater percentage of students receiving financial aid. The failed logic of that particular argument is that, with more financial aid available, more students in need of financial aid will be able to attend Johns Hopkins. It is a top-tier school to which most didn’t previously have access due to its enormous cost, whereas many more are already able to attend CUNY, because it is affordable with available financial aid.
Later I found an article from Marketwatch with a quote suggesting that Bloomberg’s donation is “dangerous,” because it might make us all think that billionaires are the solution to all of our problems. The quote comes from someone named Chuck Collins who represents the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). According to the IPS website, the “IPS is a progressive think tank dedicated to building a more equitable, ecologically sustainable, and peaceful society.” A small amount of digging turned up that IPS was founded with…drum roll…donations from philanthropic billionaires.
Collins goes even further and asserts that by making this donation, Bloomberg is creating a burden on taxpayers: “We forget that this level of philanthropy is subsidized by we, the taxpayers,” he said. “You and I chip in 37 cents to 57 cents of every dollar that a billionaire gives in the form of lost tax revenue.” Aside from the obvious hypocrisy of his funding source, I was struck by the clear class baiting of this last statement, which cannot possibly further the IPS’s dedication to building a peaceful society. He’s portraying Bloomberg’s donation as taking money out of all of our pockets.
The whole argument is an expression of the leftist ideal that money is somehow finite. They don’t see it as a tool for creating jobs and wealth, but as a zero sum game. They see it as an obligation to take money from people who have it and redistribute it to other people. This is accomplished, of course, through taxation and government programs.
The real “problem” is that the money passes through the leaking sieve of government and very little of it ever reaches those who need it the most. The real “danger” is that the money stops creating jobs and wealth, because it is taken from those who know how to leverage it, and the system ultimately becomes unsustainable.
I am thankful today that I live in America, and not some socialist country from which people have been flocking away in droves over the last hundred years. Many of them are gathered at our southern border today hoping to share in what America offers. We have plenty of problems to be sure, but billionaires giving away money isn’t one of them.