Last year over 20 Americans gave away $100m or more each, led by Warren Buffett’s $43.5bn, according to a publication called Chronicle of Philanthropy, which says that Americans gave away more than a quarter of a trillion dollars last year. On an on-going basis the most generous is Bill Gates who does more than anyone else on the planet to save large numbers of Africans from disease and death every year. But there are others who regularly give away huge sums, like oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens who gave away $172m last year, on top of the $220m he gave away in 2005, and Denny Stanford of South Dakota who gave $400m to his local hospital. One remembers Gordon Moore giving away some $15bn, a few years back, and David Packard leaving around $5bn to be used to ‘improve the lives of children, enable creative pursuit of science, advance reproductive health, and conserve and restore earth’s natural systems’. The US attitude to giving seems to reflect the American belief that individual action can make the world a better place. In Europe not many people seem to think that way. Rich Europeans typically try to establish a dynasty, which is usually interpreted by their descendants as a licence to live in grand style, buy fancy cars, chase chicks, drink like a fish and become an arrogant bastard.
The Generosity of Americans
One of the humbling things about the Americans is their incredible generosity which is very different to anything we see in Europe.