The Guilt Pledge
ALL
In Pursuit of Wealth: The Moral Case for Finance
by Yaron Brook | September 30, 2017
Inequality Doesn't Matter If We’re All Paid According to the Value We Create
by Don Watikins | October 18, 2016
Who Cares about Inequality?
by Don Watikins | April 28, 2016
Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality
by Don Watkins | April 19, 2016
Economic Inequality Complaints Are Just A Cover For Anti-Rich Prejudice
by Don Watikins | April 14, 2016
Equality of Opportunity Doesn’t Exist in America — and That’s a Good Thing
by Don Watikins | April 06, 2016
Inherit The Wind . . . And Not Much Else
by Don Watikins | April 05, 2016
Equal is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality
by Don Watkins | October 20, 2015
Religion in America
by The Editors | December 05, 2014
Religion vs. Freedom
by Onkar Ghate | December 03, 2014
Debate: “Inequality: Should We Care?”
by Yaron Brook | May 08, 2014
Economic Inequality: Who Cares?
by The Editors | March 25, 2014
Our Poverty Problem?
by Don Watkins | March 11, 2014
Is Inequality Fair?
by Yaron Brook | March 05, 2014
Government tries to do too much: Opposing view
by Don Watkins | January 26, 2014
“You didn’t build that,” conservative style
by Steve Simpson | December 09, 2013
Why Do 1.4 Million Americans Work At Walmart, With Many More Trying To?
by Doug Altner | November 27, 2013
Atlas Shrugged Is A Book About Pride In One’s Work, And The Success That Results
by Steve Simpson | November 08, 2013
Bernie Madoff, Steve Jobs, and Wall Street Greed
by Don Watkins | September 26, 2013
Justice Department should let US Airways & American Airlines merger proceed
by Tom Bowden | August 16, 2013
What Are The Search Results When You Google ‘Antitrust’?
by Tom Bowden | April 18, 2013
To Be Born Poor Doesn’t Mean You’ll Always Be Poor
by Yaron Brook | April 12, 2013
We Should Be Embarrassed by the Sequester Debate
by Yaron Brook | March 20, 2013
“Give Back” Is One of the World's Most Impoverishing Commands
by Yaron Brook | March 12, 2013
Capitalism in No Way Created Poverty, It Inherited It
by Yaron Brook | February 25, 2013
3 crucial lessons Ayn Rand can teach us today
by Yaron Brook | February 02, 2013
Capitalism without Guilt
by Yaron Brook | January 21, 2013
President Obama Duels With Ayn Rand Over What Makes America Great
by Don Watkins | October 29, 2012
Why Ayn Rand’s Absence From Last Thursday’s Debate Benefits Big Government
by Yaron Brook | October 15, 2012
The Virtue of Employee Layoffs
by Yaron Brook | September 06, 2012
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Paean to American Liberty
by Don Watkins | August 17, 2012
President Obama vs. My Grandfather
by Don Watkins | July 30, 2012
The Dog-Eat-Dog Welfare State Is Lose-Lose
by Don Watkins | July 12, 2012
Changing the Debate: How to Move from an Entitlement State to a Free Market
by Don Watkins | July 02, 2012
Private Equity Firms Want Acquisitions To Profit, Not Fold
by Doug Altner | June 05, 2012
Opposing view: Celebrate private equity
by Don Watkins | May 29, 2012
The “On Your Own” Economy
by Don Watkins | March 09, 2012
What's Really Wrong with Entitlements
by Don Watkins | February 21, 2012
Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand — Why Are You Still So Misunderstood?
by Don Watkins | February 02, 2012
America Before The Entitlement State
by Don Watkins | November 18, 2011
How Did Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged Predict an America Spinning Out of Control?
by Onkar Ghate | October 31, 2011
What We Owe Steve Jobs
by Don Watkins | October 06, 2011
What’s Missing From The Budget Debate
by Don Watkins | July 12, 2011
Does America Need Ayn Rand or Jesus?
by Onkar Ghate | June 29, 2011
When It Comes to Wealth Creation, There Is No Pie
by Yaron Brook | June 14, 2011
It’s Time To Kill The “Robin Hood” Myth
by Yaron Brook | May 06, 2011
Using Ayn Rand's Values to Create Competitive Advantage in Business
by John Allison | April 04, 2011
In Defense of Finance
by Yaron Brook | February 15, 2011
The Tea Party Will Fail — Unless it Fully Embraces Individualism as a Moral Ideal
by Tom Bowden | January 21, 2011
How About Tax Reparations for the Rich?
by Don Watkins | January 18, 2011
The Guilt Pledge
by Don Watkins | September 22, 2010
How To Succeed In Business: Really Try
by Don Watkins | September 13, 2010
The U.S. Anti-Business Epidemic
by Don Watkins | August 17, 2010
Atlas Shrugged’s Timeless Moral: Profit-Making Is Virtue, Not Vice
by Yaron Brook | July 20, 2010
Capitalism: Who Needs It — Ayn Rand and the American System
by Yaron Brook | June 09, 2010
Apple vs. GM: Ayn Rand Knew the Difference. Do You?
by Don Watkins | March 02, 2010
Commercialism Only Adds to Joy of the Holidays
by Onkar Ghate | December 18, 2009
Why is Ayn Rand Still Relevant: Atlas Shrugged and Today’s World
by Yaron Brook | August 10, 2009
The Corrupt Critics of CEO Pay
by Yaron Brook | May 2009
America’s Unfree Market
by Yaron Brook | May 2009
Energy at the Speed of Thought: The Original Alternative Energy Market
by Alex Epstein | Summer 2009
Is Rand Relevant?
by Yaron Brook | March 14, 2009
Stop Blaming Capitalism for Government Failures
by Yaron Brook | November 13, 2008
From Flat World To Free World
by Yaron Brook | June 26, 2008
Vindicating Capitalism: The Real History of the Standard Oil Company
by Alex Epstein | Summer 2008
The Right Vision Of Health Care
by Yaron Brook | January 08, 2008
Deep-Six the Law of the Sea
by Tom Bowden | November 20, 2007
The Influence of Atlas Shrugged
by Yaron Brook | October 09, 2007
The Morality of Moneylending: A Short History
by Yaron Brook | Fall 2007
Say “No Way!” to “Say on Pay”
by Yaron Brook | May 22, 2007
Atlas Shrugged — America's Second Declaration of Independence
by Onkar Ghate | March 01, 2007
Pay Is Company’s Prerogative
by Yaron Brook | January 08, 2007
Religion and Morality
by Onkar Ghate | October 18, 2006
Net Neutrality vs. Internet Freedom
by Alex Epstein | August 16, 2006
Why Are CEOs Paid So Much?
by Elan Journo | May 11, 2006
To Outsource or to Stagnate?
by Onkar Ghate | August 01, 2004
Ayn Rand's Ideas — An Introduction
by Onkar Ghate | June 02, 2003
Capitalists vs. Crooks
by Elan Journo | July 22, 2002
Forgotten Heroes of 9/11
by Onkar Ghate | May 17, 2002
Religion vs. America
by Leonard Peikoff | 1986
The Sanction of the Victims
by Ayn Rand | November 21, 1981
Egalitarianism and Inflation
by Ayn Rand | 1974
The Moratorium on Brains
by Ayn Rand | November 14, 1971
What Is Capitalism?
by Ayn Rand | November 19, 1967
POV: What Is Capitalism?
by admin | November-December 1965
Is Atlas Shrugging?
by Ayn Rand | April 19, 1964
The Fascist New Frontier
by Ayn Rand | December 16, 1962
America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business
by Ayn Rand | December 17, 1961
The “New Intellectual”
by Ayn Rand | May 15, 1961
Capitalism vs. Communism
by Ayn Rand | 1961

MORE FROM THE BLOG:

Government And Business in Voice for Reason
Government & BusinessCapitalism

The Guilt Pledge

by Don Watkins and Yaron Brook | September 22, 2010 | Forbes.com

Dear American Billionaire,

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have asked you to publicly pledge to give away at least half of your wealth to philanthropic causes. So far forty of the wealthiest Americans have signed the Giving Pledge, as it’s known. As people who have an enormous respect for those, like you, who create enormous wealth, we urge you not to join them.

At the beginning of your career, you set out to pursue your passion. Like your peers, you took immense risks, worked grueling hours, tackled complex problems, and experienced your share of bad luck and failure — but you persevered. Maybe you created unrivaled efficiencies that allowed you to charge unbeatable prices, like Richard Schulze of Best Buy . Maybe you found a way to make life and business incredibly more convenient, like FedEx founder Fred Smith. Maybe you helped create a new industry, like Intel’s Gordon Moore. Whatever the details, you became one of the world’s most productive individuals.

But while you may have received financial rewards, satisfaction, and the respect of your peers, the one thing you haven’t gotten for your achievement is moral credit.

The premise underlying the Giving Pledge is that so long as you were pursuing your own goals and well-being, what you were doing wasn’t moral. Only by making the good of others your primary aim and sacrificing your wealth to meet their needs do your actions acquire ethical significance.

Virtually everyone today shares that view — but what if it’s wrong? What if your greatest moral achievement consists, not in giving away your wealth, but in having produced it? What if morality is really about guiding you in making the most of your own life — not commanding you to serve the needs of others? What if the most virtuous thing you can do in life is to pursue your own happiness?

This conception of morality has a long and noble history, stretching back to ancient Greece. Greek philosophers conceived of ethics as a guide to living — to acquiring the virtues necessary to shape your life into the most enjoyable, most successful life it can be. That is also how the Greeks’ modern heir, Ayn Rand, viewed morality. And since creating material wealth is a central requirement of a human life, Rand argued, productive achievement is a profoundly moral activity.

You have produced on a grand scale. Now you have a tremendous amount of wealth at your disposal — more than you could possibly spend on your personal consumption. If the achievement of your own happiness is your goal, then perhaps you will choose to keep your wealth invested in business endeavors. Perhaps you will pass it on to loved ones. Perhaps you will use the money to promote capitalism — the economic system that made your success (and the success of every industrialized nation) possible.

Or perhaps you will donate your money to a charitable cause that matters to you. Like many of the businessmen targeted by the Giving Pledge, you may already fund educational programs in your home town, or medical research to fight an illness you’ve faced. You give to charity out of a benevolent desire to help those worthy of help. That’s perfectly consistent with your pursuit of happiness.

But according to the Giving Pledge, what makes you happy shouldn’t be your primary concern.

It is no accident that the Giving Pledge is not a call for charity but a public pledge to give. As Matthew Bishop and Michael Green observe, “Richesse oblige is part of American culture. The peer pressure to give is great (for donors large and small) . . . The Giving Pledge has upped that peer pressure . . .” The Pledge treats your wealth, not as a justly earned reward, but as a gift from society — one that came with plenty of strings attached. The message is: Fulfill the obligation that came with your riches, give your wealth away — or hide your face in shame.

But your wealth was not an undeserved gift. Every dollar in your bank account came from some individual who voluntarily gave it to you — who gave it to you in exchange for a product he judged to be more valuable than his dollar. You have no moral obligation to “give back,” because you didn’t take anything in the first place.

Your productive achievement and the rewards that go along with it are something you should be proud of, and they are something others should admire. Don’t let anyone treat them as a sin.

Don Watkins

Yaron Brook

About The Authors

Don Watkins

Former Fellow (2006-2017), Ayn Rand Institute

Yaron Brook

Chairman of the Board, Ayn Rand Institute