Vail Daily columnist Butch Mazzuca: Giving, or giving back?
December 12, 2012
When a famous or wealthy person takes a portion or all of their fortune and gives it to charity, they’re considered a philanthropist who is “giving back” to society. But when someone takes all or a part of their fortune and reinvests it by creating a hugely successfully business that employs thousands, bolsters the economy and provides a product that benefits thousands or perhaps millions, many consider them predatory capitalists.
Neil Boortz once wrote that after Warren Buffett announced he was donating 85 percent of his fortune to charity, he heard a newscaster refer to Mr. Buffett’s actions as giving back some of his “winnings.”
Did Warren Buffet actually “win” those billions in a lottery or on the Vegas strip? I doubt it. People such as Buffett, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs actually earned their fortunes by taking financial risk and providing something of value to society.
We do our children a great disservice by advancing the notion that rich people got that way by luck or chance or that their fortunes are really “winnings.” Studies have shown that only 2 percent of the millionaires in this country inherited their wealth, which means the other 98 percent earned it through their own creativity, perseverance and hard work.
By referring to those who have earned great wealth as people who somehow skirted the basic laws of business and “won” their fortunes, we poison the minds of the young and send the absolutely wrong message.
People act on their beliefs. If a culture inculcates the young with the notion that successful people got to where they are by means other than hard work and making good decisions, what we’re really saying is that if you’re not affluent, then you must be unlucky and someone (read government) needs to re-distribute the ill-gotten gains of the wealthy.
Why would anyone work hard and take risks to create a better future when they’ve been taught (or told by government in so many subtle ways) that fortunes are really “winnings” and not earnings?
The “fair share” mentality that’s enveloped America in recent years repudiates the very ideals this nation was built on – that aspirations to improve one’s life through hard work, free enterprise and private initiative are the prime ingredients for success.
We often hear of the great disparity in wealth distribution in the United States. How 20 percent of the population “receives” (as if it’s a gift) 59 percent of the nation’s annual income, while the bottom 20 percent “receives” (there’s that word again) only 4 percent.
There’s an old maxim in sales that says, 80 percent of the sales are made by 20 percent of the sales force – a maxim any sales manager will attest to. Ask any one of the owners or managers of one of the valley’s many real estate firms about the 80-20 rule, and you’re get the same answer.
I doubt Slifer’s or Prudential’s top salesperson “won” all those listings and closings. I suspect he or she spent years farming a particular area and spent their own money on advertising, and then sat through hours of open houses, all while fine tuning their business skills to reach the top of their profession.
As Mr. Boortz intoned in his best seller “Somebody’s Gotta Say It,” perhaps the most nefarious notion that’s taken root in this country over the last few years is that whatever we have is ours not as a result of hard work, sacrifice and individual effort but because of the luck of the draw, the notion espoused by the “Occupy” movements.
If we really want to help our children grow to be contributing members of society, we need to teach them that giving and giving back are two very different concepts.
Quote of the day: “There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.” – Thomas Sowell
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.