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Clinton, Gates and Jet Li on the "Philanthrocrisis"

Posted by: Diane Brady on January 29, 2009

A constellation of celebrity philanthropists gathered today in Davos to talk about the tough state of giving: Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Jet Li and Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.

Among the highlights:

—Former British Prime Minister Blair thanking host Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire who has his own foundation to do good, for “describing me as a European.” (Pinchuk had also called him “charismatic” but Blair let that one pass.)

—Blair noting that 1933 was one of the largest years for giving in the U.S.

—Clinton telling the well-heeled crowd that “we’ve got planes at Davos parked as far away as Milan,” in an effort to help them put their own suffering in perspective.

—Gates, who sat with a bemused smile for much of the proceedings, arguing that he’s “not all that negative” about the environment, noting that “government generosity” in most countries (with the exception of places like Italy) has not gone down.

—Virgin’s Branson complimenting companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and Interface (Interface!) for incorporating a spirit of giving into their corporate cultures.

—Jet Li enthusiastically sharing his techniques for getting more than one million Asians to participate in his charity.

—Yunus noting that “human beings are more than money-making robots” before teasing Gates to say he “had to get out of the business world” to “do something”.

Women for Women International founder Zainab Salbi standing up to note that there wasn’t a single woman on the panel (even the moderator was male).

—Gates informing “Brave New Talent” founder Lucian Tarnowski, self-described as 25, that giving among young Americans is abysmal when compared with previous generations.

MPower Ventures CEO Roy Sosa telling me why Yunus’s model of microcredit doesn’t work in the U.S., from the high fixed expenses of many poor consumers to the impact that violence has had on inner-city culture.

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Reader Comments

S. Crewed

January 29, 2009 05:54 PM

" ...Gates informing... that giving among young Americans is abysmal when compared with previous generations." Well, Bill, don't you think this might be because young Americans have just undergone one recession, are in a second, and currently enjoy the worst job prospects of the last 27 years? Don't you think this is at least in part due to your routine, obviously prejudiced comments about American students and predilection for H-1B hires and offshore outsourcing?


February 10, 2009 02:18 PM

The rich(folks attending these gatherings) get richer while
the poor (their fellow countrymen whom they tromped on
to become so rich) get poorer.

These people need to be philanthropists without being
self absorbed a--holes. Use compassion to help your own
country by supporting financial aid, rather than making a
point about that nobody is as rich as you have become.
We know your career history, and it shows the kind of
person they really are.

Judgement day will be the most difficult time for these
people. By then their riches will be left to their family pet,
in a trust account.

This is why monopolies should be prevented, and income
taxes on the rich must be increased. The middle income
and low income people are the crutch to society and we
pay the taxes.

That is so wrong. Unfortunately the UN supports this
behavior, so it will not get addressed in the member

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How can you manage smarter? BusinessWeek writers Nanette Byrnes, Patricia O’Connell, Emily Thornton, Matthew Boyle, Michelle Conlin and Diane Brady synthesize insights from the brightest business thinkers, critique the latest management trends, and comment on leaders in the news.

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