The Wall Street Journal has an article on the 16 new signers of the Warren Buffett-Bill and Melinda Gates "Giving Pledge." It concludes with an interesting message from "Investor and new addition to the pledge, Nicolas Berggruen, 48":
"The state has limits in to what it can and cannot do," said Mr. Berggruen. "Private enterprise can be faster and less bureaucratic than the state."
The Journal also has a copy of Carl Icahn's letter joining the pledge: "those who have benefitted the most from our economic system have a responsibility to give back to society in a meaningful way."
That "give back" phrase reminded me of a recent article in the Financial Times:
"Giving back to the community" is the way business people often describe their philanthropy. It is an arresting phrase because it suggests that their careers have involved taking something away from the community.
Ms Rosenfeld attracted some criticism when Kraft this year acquired Cadbury, and went back on its promise to keep the UK confectionery maker's Somerdale factory open. But she surely does not have to wait until retirement to benefit society. Consider the contribution Kraft already makes. It employs 140,000 people in 170 countries. These employees feed and clothe their families, buy goods and services and go on holiday, thereby spreading wealth to others. They pay taxes. Kraft itself last year set aside $1.3bn, just under 30 per cent of its profits, to pay corporation tax.
As Graham Mackay, chief executive of SABMiller, the brewery company, wrote in the FT, the biggest benefit a business brings to society is "the very act of running its business – paying suppliers, paying wages, paying taxes".
So why, having made such contributions, do executives feel the need to give something back?