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Belmont Club

You Can Take It With You

April 29th, 2014 - 1:19 pm

In the late 1950s CBS produced a television show, titled the Millionaire, which ran for 206 episodes. Each episode began with a tour of a magnificent estate followed by a voiceover explaining the premise of the show.  It described the actions of a billionaire and his assistant, Michael Anthony, who each week gave a way a million dollars to a stranger and observed the events that followed.

My name is Michael Anthony, and until his death just a few years ago, I was the executive secretary to the late John Beresford Tipton, Jr. John Beresford Tipton, a fabulously wealthy and fascinating man, whose many hobbies included his habit of giving away one million dollars, tax free, each week — to persons he had never even met.

The fictional John Beresford Tipton was not a very good philanthropist. He used money to examine its effect on people’s lives.  Tipton he was not a very edifying example insofar as he treated people like lab rats, even though he occasionally intervened to prevent injustice from befalling a beneficiary.

But not even the fictional John Beresford Tipton can do justice to the real thing. Rich Americans give away money on a colossal scale. Take Bill Gates. “Having already given away $28bn, Bill Gates intends to eradicate polio, with the same drive he brought to Microsoft,” says the Telegraph. That’s enough for enough money for 28,000 episodes of the Millionaire.

The question is why.

Pressed to explain why he gave away money in such staggering sums Gates explained that he had more money than he could consume.  He had to find other uses for money besides spending it on himself. “Once you get beyond a million dollars, it’s still the same hamburger,” he said.

The Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College after doing a study on such motivations concluded that in many cases the rich gave away money for the same reason they got it in the first place. They wanted to do something meaningful to themselves and make their mark on the world. For some people the main use of money is to achieve a sense of accomplishment; not to disport themselves with starlets, buy expensive cars, a string of mansions or collect art.

They acquired money by way of pursuing a dream, as a byproduct.  But even in the world of philanthropy there are all kinds. A publication called The Philanthropy Round Table examined the case of two rather unusual examples — even by the eccentric standards of American philanthropy.  Alan and Eric Barnhart of Tennessee and Leo Linbeck of Texas were looking to give it all away.

In 1986, Alan Barnhart was 25 and planning to go into business with his brother. An evangelical Christian, he wondered what Scripture had to say about the profits he hoped to make. So he combed the Bible for whatever advice it had to offer about money. That’s when he came across verses like this:

“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…”
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…”
“It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven…”

No matter where he turned, it seemed to him that Scripture was sending a very clear warning: Money can be dangerous. “I read all these verses, and I thought: ‘I want to be good in business, and I’m competitive,’” Barnhart says. “But I didn’t want to make a lot of money if doing so would damage my life. And I could see where it really could.”

So Alan and his brother Eric decided to do something unusual: They vowed to cap their income, earning no more than the middle-class members of their Memphis, Tennessee, Sunday school class did, and give much of their company’s profits to charity. In their first year of business, they gave away $50,000—more than Alan’s salary.

Now, nearly 30 years later, the results are even more tremendous: The Barnharts oversee a $250 million crane and rigging company, and they’ve donated nearly $100 million of its profits to charity. Moreover, in 2007 they decided to go even further. They gave the entire company away. Though they still run its daily operations, the National Christian Foundation (NCF) now owns Barnhart Crane & Rigging. The brothers will never reap its accrued value; they kept none of it.

Leo Linbeck III, who some of you may have heard of,  planned on giving back to his community, Greater Houston.

The Greater Houston Community Foundation owns about 12 percent of local businessman Leo Linbeck III’s construction, real estate, health care, and education firm, Aquinas Companies, which earns $500 million in annual revenues. The plan, Linbeck says, is to transfer more and more of the company to a supporting organization of the foundation. By the time he dies, if not before, he wants the foundation to own it all, though the Linbeck family will still steer the firm and run its day-to-day operations….

Linbeck, a devout Catholic, calls that a tithe. His idea of stewardship, he says, emerges from a Catholic worldview in which wealth and work should be dedicated to human relationships more than to personal consumption. Yet he is matter-of-fact about his generosity. “There are not that many branches in the decision tree,” he says. “When you’ve got enough to consume, and you’re satisfied, and you don’t want to consume anymore, you’ve got to do something with it.”

For most ordinary people, earning money to give it away might seem slightly crazy. A normal person can understand the charitable impulse, yet who but a fruitcake would give the whole works away? Part of the reason its so hard to understand is psychological. Most of us are daily short of a little something — a vacation, a car to replace the beater; a decent pair of shoes, a new computer and so on.  Money seems so hard to come by that we can hardly imagine giving it away.

But if we were suddenly relieved of our immediate needs our perspective would change instantly. We might rush out and buy a new car, and a new widescreen TV at first. But after a couple of weeks shopping would get to be a drag.  Consumption beyond a certain point is curiously unsatisfying. We’d suddenly be faced with the problem of a dog that catches the car.

Blaise Pascal argued the biggest casino consisted of how you gambled your life. All the rest was penny ante. In his Pensees Pascal wrote:

Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked.  … Since you must choose, let us see which … “That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much.” … and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all. And thus, when one is forced to play, he must renounce reason to preserve his life, rather than risk it for infinite gain, as likely to happen as the loss of nothingness.

When you think about it, the most valuable thing each of us possesses is his life: what we do, learn and achieve.  A friend pointed out to me that the Barnharts and Leo Linbeck were not so unique. Each of us bets the farm.  We can’t help it. So perhaps the rational thing to do is to make that bet count, and quit worrying about looking crazy.  On a visit to my mother some months ago she mentioned in passing having provided some assistance — a cup of sugar or some such — to her neighbors. I had never met or noticed them, so I idly asked her who they were.

“Oh they’re a couple in their 80s who’ve been taking care of their crippled son for the last 40 years.  He was paralyzed in an accident and they gave up their employment to take care of him.”  We think billionaires are interesting? Well they certainly are, but no more interesting — or less interesting — than the rest of us.  Did the old couple resent their situation? Or did they rather consider that they had a great chance?

Perhaps the great difference between freedom and oligarchy lies actually in this. You can get rich under both systems. But you can only bet your life according to your lights under one of them.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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Top Rated Comments   
A LIFE ON LOAN

It has been truly said, my friends
Our lives are ours on loan
At times we need to make amends
And other times atone
For we are granted heaven’s gift
Of God’s eternal life
And whether purposed or adrift
We deal with pain and strife
And yet God’s grace will see us through
If we will but accept
The love that’s ours whate’er we do
And promises He’s kept

20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
It would be interesting to hear from L3 what measures he might take to attempt to save his charitable trust from the fate of so many others:

Being taken over over time by the ever active leftist infiltrators.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are a few people who inspire me but two were in this post. Richard Fernandez and Leo Linbeck. Thank you, gentlemen.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (62)
All Comments   (62)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
A wise man once asked, "Is the Pope Catholic? "

The answer of course is "not really". A progressive sure, devout? You think? Naw.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Jonas Salk:

"In 1952 he first innoculated volunteers, including himself, his wife, and their three sons, with a polio vaccine made from this killed virus. Everyone who received the test vaccine began producing antibodies to the disease, yet no one became ill.

The vaccine seemed safe and effective. The following year he published the results in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and nationwide testing was carried out. Since the turn of the century, polio outbreaks had grown more frequent and more devastating."

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bmsalk.html
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
In a book Gates wrote many years ago he described the way he and his sister were brought up at home. There were quite a few healthy traditions that were carried out regularly.
He was fortunate also that his folks were wealthy enough to send him to a school that afforded him access to a computer.
---
"After an intial failure, two enterprising youths followed Alan Turing’s lead and focused on the idea of creating code capable of making the computer a general purpose machine. Bill Gates and Paul Allen got their first access to a mainframe in high school and quickly became known for their strength as programmers and hackers and for the problems they caused. The school, Lakeside Prep School, bought what they thought would be more than 1 year’s time on a DEC mainframe only to discover the time used up in a matter of weeks by Gates and his friends.

In a pattern of behavior that has characterized them since the 11th grade, Gates and Allen managed to bluff their ways into opportunities for access to computers.
On one occasion, when their time lapsed, they found a way to log in as administrators and continue programming.

At the University of Washington, Allen passed himself off as a graduate student until caught and barred from the lab. Their tenacity paid off, however. Increasingly, they were given time and money for finding and fixing bugs in computers software.

Their real break, however, came when they saw an article about the Altair 8000 in Popular Electronics Magazine. The computer was small and inexpensive, and it lent itself to programming. Gates and Allen tracked down the manufacturer (MITS -- Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) and offered to design a programming language for the computer – BASIC.

In a tradition that many claim remains at Microsoft, they claimed to have a software that didn’t exist for a computer they had never seen, they produced it late, and it was buggy, but it was good enough – the best available for its purpose.

They produced a programming language that had never been near an Altair, yet worked the first time they tried it."

http://imrl.usu.edu/oslo/technology_writing/004_002.htm
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
I knew Peshawar was number 1 in something:
(our fault, of course)

"In developing countries, estimates in 1988 ran as high as 350,000 polio cases each year.[39] As a result, in 2002, more than 500 million children were immunized in 93 countries,[19]:112 and by December 2002, there were only 1,924 cases worldwide, mostly in India,[40] with six other countries where polio was still endemic: Afghanistan, Egypt, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Somalia.[41]

By early 2014, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed only three remaining countries where polio was still endemic, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, and declared Pakistan's city of Peshawar as the world's "largest reservoir," of polio.[42]

Some groups have attributed Pakistan's high numbers, in part, to the fact that because the CIA conducted a fake polio campaign to help track Osama bin Laden in May 2011, religious extremists can create fear that the vaccine is actually a western conspiracy to sterilise the population.[43][44]"
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Life itself is a winning lottery ticket...I've always thought so...
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Buddy and Walt: I wish you two would stop steling my punch lines about Aggies, Bubba, fish, boats and beer! Here I was getting all ready to dazzle the bc and am now doomed to obscurity! For shame, for shame!

On a serious note: If L3 sets up his trust for the purpose of accomplishing and securing explicit goals he can avoid having things taken over by do-gooders. PROVIDED he also arranges for the trustees not to get paid unless they show some results. (See Heinlein's stories about Ira Howard for what I mean.

And go to it L3 Here's wishing yopu luck beyond your wildest dreams!
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Alas, the article doesn't really capture what I'm doing. Be careful about jumping to conclusions based on a few paragraphs at the bottom of a magazine article.

If I get some spare time the next few days, I will send a more complete explanation to W He can, if he wishes, post it. However, it may not rise to the level of quality of the BC. The bar is high.

Cheers,
L3
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Leo,

Hopefully you'll give some response to my "spend it down in half a generation" suggestion regarding trusts.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you can, I look forward to it.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
--i'd like to see a for-real "Mr. Linbeck Goes to Washington" --but even if it were only a film, put Lt. Dan in there in that Jimmy Stewart role --
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
A LIFE ON LOAN

It has been truly said, my friends
Our lives are ours on loan
At times we need to make amends
And other times atone
For we are granted heaven’s gift
Of God’s eternal life
And whether purposed or adrift
We deal with pain and strife
And yet God’s grace will see us through
If we will but accept
The love that’s ours whate’er we do
And promises He’s kept

20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
well done
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
sublime verse, walt
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Or he'll spend all day in a boat drinking beer.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
...and propbly fall in the water and drown, and the fish eat HIM instead
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Circle of Life.

- Al Gore
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
True... but there is beer right?
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Did you ever hear the saying, "You can't take it with you?" Well Grandpa did."
- After "The Munsters"

"There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money."
- Boswell's "Life of Johnson"

"The best thing that you can do for the poor is not be one of them."
- Reverend Ike

My freshman year Common Core Social Sciences Instructor was married to a member of the British Communist Party. He once gave us the best all time working definition of Marxism I ever heard. We called him The Hammer, and I wish him well wherever he is.

"A Marxist is someone who loves Humanity, and hates their neighbors."
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Reverend Ike: "You Deserve the Best!"

"The Million Dollars Comes From Your Inner Consciousness."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lE-dXg5fChI
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
We stopped for gas on Hwy 1 in central CA, and my wifes sisters boyfriend, a handsome strapping black man who grew up in Oakland, immediately recognized Rev Ike in his Rolls Royce.
We found it hilarious. I can't recall if he went over to meet him or not. - It would have been like him to do so.

Here's a Liberal who was completely repulsed by the "Wretched" Rev. Ike:

http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/tony-norman/2009/08/04/The-wretched-venal-life-of-Rev-Ike/stories/200908040223
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
"It helps to think of the prosperity gospel movement in terms of the early history of rock 'n' roll:

Norman Vincent Peale would be the movement's Hank Williams. Rev. Ike is its Little Richard. Benny Hinn is its Bo Diddley. Robert Schuller is Chuck Berry. Ernest Angley is Chubby Checker. Jim Bakker is Buddy Holly. Jimmy Swaggart is Jerry Lee Lewis and Joel Osteen is Elvis. Creflo Dollar, Rev. Ike's most slavish imitator, is either Jackie Wilson or James Brown.

Unlike many of his contemporaries and rivals, Rev. Ike never claimed he was a "Christian minister," though he could fill Madison Square Garden with money-grubbing acolytes as fast as any preacher.

"This is the do-it-yourself church," he would say tossing aside the Apostle Paul and channeling Ayn Rand. "The only savior in this philosophy is God in you."
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
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