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"Mister Facebook," Mark Zuckerberg, announced yesterday that he and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, were launching the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a limited liability corporation through which 99 percent of their shares would be donated for a number of charitable causes, including curing diseases and community building.
Zuckerberg and Chan's astounding move seems to be in line with a number of tech CEOs who have decided to adopt a "kinder and gentler" ultra-wealthy hat. But is there more here than meets the eye?
One would think that it wouldn't be too difficult an enterprise to give money away, but Zuckerberg tried his hand before in 2010. At that time, he gave away $100 million to improve charter schools in Newark, New Jersey. That initiative, many said, "failed miserably." Scathing resistance from parent groups, activists, and unions left Zuckerberg a wiser man for the experience.
Larry Brilliant, a physician who has previously worked on philanthropic ventures with many Silicon Valley luminaries in the past (including Marc Benioff and Jeff Skoll) noted that the scale of the donation and Zuckerberg's age were remarkable. "I hope this will be a model for Mark's generation," Brilliant said.
Millennials like Zuckerberg are, on average, more liberal and progressive in how they regard social justice and egalitarianism. Thus, if there was any generation more likely to open up its wallet in the spirit of community wealth-sharing, this is the one. In fact, there might be a cultural shift toward this type of thinking. A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences suggested that one's emotional well-being (i.e., happiness and self-fulfillment) did not correlate with income beyond $75,000.
At least one CEO claimed to 'see the light' and credited his conversion to that study. When Dan Price, founder of Gravity Payments, announced he was going to lower his own pay to that of an entry-level clerk, and up everyone else's to $70,000, there was much fanfare from the hoi polloi who celebrated the move as an exemplar to corporate elitists. Here was a man who cared!
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