Forbes released its 41st annual Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans late last month. Collectively, the magazine reports, the 400 are worth approximately $4 trillion—down $500 billion from last year.
As part of the same project, to gauge how philanthropic those on the list are, Forbes compiled their known charitable contributions and assigned each of them a “philanthropy score,” ranging from 1 to 5.
“To calculate the scores,” as the magazine’s Rachel Sandler describes it, “we added the value of each person’s total out-the-door lifetime giving to their 2022 Forbes 400 net worth, then divided their lifetime giving by that number. Each score corresponds to a range of giving as a percentage of a person’s net worth.”
Most “received a 1 or a 2, indicating they have donated less than 5% of their fortune to charity so far,” according to the results. “Only nine have given away more than 20%, earning them a score of 5 ….”
By this measure, among others, the nine are at the “commanding heights” of the country’s, and the world’s, philanthropic establishment—to the rest of which they are influential exemplars, of course, and of which they would plausibly be considered representative.
They are Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates, MacKenzie Scott, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Gordon Moore, Amos Hostetter, Jr., Lynn Schusterman, and John Arnold. Collectively, their current net worths total $271.2 billion, according to Forbes’ numbers.
Acknowledging the inherent subjectivity in attempting to make any such ideological categorizations: none could plausibly be considered actively, outwardly, consistently conservative.
Certainly, Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates, Scott, Buffett, and Soros couldn’t. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation supports environmental conservation, patient care, and scientific research and projects in the San Francisco Bay area. The Barr Foundation of Hostetter’s and his family supports the arts and education and to prevent climate change. And the Schusterman philanthropies support Jewish charities and early-childhood education.
Arnold’s worldview is more difficult to categorize. His eclectic philanthropic endeavors have included supporting aggressive education reform, some of which has taken the form of affording more options for parents, as well as educating policymakers about the benefits of responsible fiscal management of governmental resources, including pensions. They’ve also included criminal justice, dietary policy, and reform of scientific research and some of the legal structures of nonprofitdom. He has been criticized by those on both the left and right for his giving.