Happy Billionaires - The Giving Pledge

Many people live with the belief that, “Having a million dollars will make me happy”.  By this logic, then billionaires should be a thousand times happier!  However, sages and wise people throughout the ages have concluded that material wealth does not, in itself, lead to happiness or contentment. 

Bill & Melinda Gates and financial guru Warren Buffett created The Giving Pledge also known as the “billionaire’s challenge”.  Quite a few wealthy individuals – mainly billionaires – have pledged to donate at least half of their wealth to charity before they die.  This is interesting because it provides us with a concrete example of the idea that wealth alone does not create contentment.  Arguably, there are other values and beliefs which supersede material possessions once our basic physical needs are met.  The psychologist and philosopher William James said, “The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it”.

Values such as empathy, compassion and awareness of our interdependence with others – and let’s be realistic, probably also a sense of legacy and some peer pressure – may motivate the rich to take the pledge.  At a time when many people are cynical about the wealthy and powerful and usually look for ethical and moral decisions to begin with a grassroots movement, it’s refreshing to see such ideas being propagated from the ‘top-down’. 

The most solid comfort one can fall back upon is the thought that the business of one’s life is to help in some small way to reduce the sum of ignorance, degradation, and misery on the face of this beautiful earth ~ George Eliot


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