Wednesday, December 16, 2015

#350 / The C-Z Initiative

Almost immediately after Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan announced that they planned to give away 99% of their Facebook shares to advance charitable work, the specifics of their plan were subjected to a kind of "deconstruction," with articles carrying headlines like these: 

As these critical articles note, the charitable gift here is not really a "gift" at all; instead, Chan and Zuckerberg have pledged to transfer their assets to a vehicle called a Limited Liability Corporation, or LLC. The name of this LLC is the "Chan Zuckerberg Initiative."

Usually, when you "give something away," you transfer control and disposition to someone other than yourself. That's not the case here. Chan and Zuckerberg will continue to be in charge of their assets. A fairly brief, but helpful analysis ran in The Wall Street Journal on December 3, 2015, in the "Business News" section. You can read the article, "Zuckerberg Tests New Philanthropic Model," by clicking the link. 

Having just read Sheldon Wolin's book, The Presence of the Past: Essays on the State and the Constitution, what immediately came to mind was this quote, from Wolin's chapter on "Democracy and the Welfare State:"

For nearly a decade the private sector has steadily acquired functions that used to belong to the public sector. These include the expansion of private education, private hospitals, the assumption of various welfare programs, corporate subsidies of the arts and of public radio and television, the operation of prisons, and the recruitment of large security forces....

I think we should all be uncomfortable when it begins to appear that providing for the welfare of society will not be carried out by our democratically-established government, but will be based, instead, on "business benevolence."

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1 comment:

  1. Your definition of to "give something away" is profoundly economically naive. First of all, it's a false premise, because the "control and disposition" of assets *was* transferred from to Zuckerberg to the LLC. Second, establishing a charitable foundation doesn't mean you have no seat on its board. What a silly expectation! That's probably almost never the case except for posthumous vehicles. Finally, there are things a 501(c)(3) can't do, such as political lobbying and investing in for-profit businesses [1] like B-Corps and L3Cs [2] which is presumably why they chose to make it an LLC.



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