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September 20, 2010
According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Charles Munger, a director of the discount chain Costco and the longtime vice chairman of billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett’s investment firm, suggested in a talk with college students this week that investment in companies benefits society more than philanthropy, Bloomberg reports.
“I believe Costco does more for civilization than the Rockefeller Foundation,” Mr. Munger told University of Michigan students in a discussion, a video of which was posted online.
“I’ve seen so much folly and stupidity on the part of our major philanthropic groups,” he added. “I really have more confidence in building up the more capitalistic ventures like Costco.”
Philanthropy isn't something businessmen do to make up for a lifetime of being selfish. Charity is not "giving back." Most people in business have been giving--in the sense of investing in America and its people--for years. Any of the profits they give to charity is just icing on the cake.
2 thoughts on “Costco v. Rockefeller: Munger on philanthropy”
If we look at this at a higher level – a level where “more than” would not be appropriate – Mr Munger’s argument is valid. In any case, it was aimed at college students who deserve the chance to form their own views after hearing a wide range of opinion . Further, it rather depends on an understanding of the phrase “benefits society”. At the higher level both Costco/Berkshire Hathaway and their equivalents benefit society; and so do the Rockefeller Foundation and a myriad other philanthropic organisations and individuals (including Mr Soros). I have made a personal choice to invest my career in the philanthropic and non profit world. I am only able to do so because others are devoting their time and effort in other sectors, meeting other needs of society. And thereby creating the wealth which the sector of which I am a part, channels to what it sees as benefiting society.
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