This is the Good Club, the name given to the tiny global elite of billionaire philanthropists who recently held their first and highly secretive meeting in the heart of New York City.
The names of some of the members are familiar figures: Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, stock investors George Soros, Warren Buffett, entertainer Oprah Winfrey, banker David Rockefeller and media entrepreneur Ted Turner. But there are others, too, like business giants Eli and Edythe Broad, who are equally wealthy but less well known. All told, its members are worth US$125 billion.
The meeting — called by Gates, Buffett and Rockefeller — was held in response to the global economic downturn and the numerous health and environmental crises that are plaguing the globe. It was, in some ways, a summit to save the world.
No wonder that when news of the secret meeting leaked, via the seemingly unusual source of an Irish-American Web site, it sent shock waves through the worlds of philanthropy, development aid and even diplomacy.
“It is really unprecedented. It is the first time a group of donors of this level of wealth has met like that behind closed doors in what is in essence a billionaires’ club,” said Ian Wilhelm, senior writer at the Chronicle of Philanthropy magazine.
The existence of the Good Club has struck many as a two-edged sword. On one hand, they represent a new golden age of philanthropy, harking back to the early 20th century when the likes of John D. Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Carnegie became famous for their good works. Yet the reach and power of the Good Club are truly new. Its members control vast wealth — and with that wealth comes huge power that could reshape nations according to their will. Few doubt the good intentions of Gates and Winfrey and their kind. They have already improved the lives of millions of poor people across the developing world. But can the richest people on earth actually save the planet?
That the group should have met at all is indicative of the radical ways in which philanthropy has changed over the past two decades. The main force behind that change is Gates and his decision to donate almost all his fortune to bettering the world. Unlike the great philanthropists of former ages, Gates is young enough and active enough to take a full hands-on role in his philanthropy and craft it after his own ideas. That example has been followed by others, most notably Soros, Turner and Buffett. Indeed, this new form of philanthropy, where retired elite businessmen try to change the world, has even been dubbed “Billanthropy” after Gates. Another description is “philanthro-capitalism.”
Yet the implications of the development of philanthro-capitalism are profound. It was fitting that the Good Club was meeting near the UN. The club members’ extreme wealth makes it as powerful as some of the nations with seats inside that august chamber.
Proponents of philanthro-capitalism would argue that they are also more effective in doing good for ordinary people. Indeed the club’s members have given away about US$70 billion in the past 12 years. That is far beyond what many individual countries can afford to do with their own social policies and aid budgets.
“They have assets that rival the social spending budgets of many countries,” said Paul Schervish, director of Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy.
But there is a potential downside to the growth of these “uber donors,” especially if the whims of individuals start to take precedence over the expertise of professionals.
The strange truth is that giving away billions of dollars is difficult and fraught with risk. There can be waste, mismanagement and poor investment. At the same time it can actually do harm.
“If you are putting enormous amounts of money into a community that can’t cope with it, then you can implode that community,” said Gayle Peterson, co-founder of Headwaters Group Philanthropic Services.
Some people are crying conspiracy. That idea has particular power on the Christian right of the US, which has reacted angrily to the idea that the club discussed birth control and overpopulation. Experts in the philanthropy field think that this negative image can be countered by more openness for future Good Club meetings.
“If they do hold more meetings, and every indication is that they will, I think people would want them to be more public. After all, they can make decisions that affect millions of peoples’ lives,” Wilhelm said.
That is true. If the members of the Good Club wish to wield their undoubted power, they may have to get used to the idea of doing it more openly.
From India to China to the US, automakers cannot make vehicles — not that no one wants any, but because a more than US$450 billion industry for semiconductors got blindsided. How did both sides end up here? Over the past two weeks, automakers across the world have bemoaned the shortage of chips. Germany’s Audi, owned by Volkswagen AG, would delay making some of its high-end vehicles because of what chief executive officer Markus Duesmann called a “massive” shortfall in an interview with the Financial Times. The firm has furloughed more than 10,000 workers and reined in production. That is a further blow
MOBILE SMART: The Dimensity 1200 is 22 percent better in terms of performance than its predecessor, and 25 percent more power-efficient, the handset chip designer said MediaTek Inc (聯發科) yesterday unveiled its premium 5G processors — the Dimensity 1200 and Dimensity 1100 — as it vies for a larger slice of the world’s rapidly growing 5G smartphone market. Manufactured using Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s (台積電) 6-nanometer process technology, the Dimensity 1200 processor performs 22 percent better than the previous generation Dimensity 1000+ processor, and is 25 percent more power-efficient, MediaTek said. Chinese smartphone brands Xiaomi Corp (小米) and Realme Mobile Telecommunications (Shenzhen) Co (銳爾覓移動通信) are to be the first adopters of the latest Dimensity chips, the companies said during a virtual media briefing. Xiaomi plans to equip its first
Answering to a reported request by Germany to help address a chip shortage in its auto industry, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) yesterday said that it was in talks with domestic chip suppliers. Foreign media over the weekend reported that German Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier had sent a request to Taipei to ask Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) to cooperate more closely with German automakers to provide microchips and sensors, to bridge a shortage that has emerged over the past few months. The MOEA said that it had not yet received the request and could therefore not elaborate
FOCUS ON FOUNDRIES: An analyst said that some investors would be disappointed because they were expecting a larger announcement of a partnership with TSMC Intel Corp’s incoming chief executive officer Pat Gelsinger on Thursday pledged to regain the company’s lead in chip manufacturing, countering growing calls from some investors to shed that part of its business. “I am confident that the majority of our 2023 products will be manufactured internally,” Gelsinger said. “At the same time, given the breadth of our portfolio, it’s likely that we will expand our use of external foundries for certain technologies and products.” He plans to provide more details after officially taking over the CEO role on Feb. 15, but Gelsinger was clear that Intel is sticking with its once mighty