Charity Begins With Wealth Creation

The Project to Restore America

Charity Begins With Wealth Creation
By John Stossel
Friday, December 28, 2012

Charity — helping people who have trouble helping themselves — is a good thing two times over. It's good for the beneficiary and good for the donor, too. Stephen Post's fine book, "The Hidden Gifts of Helping," reveals that 76 percent of Americans say that helping others is what makes them most happy. Giving money makes us feel good, and helping face-to-face is even better. People say it makes them feel physically healthier. They sleep better.

Private charity is unquestioningly better than government efforts to help people. Government squanders money. Charities sometime squander money, too, but they usually don't.

Proof of the superiority of private over government efforts is everywhere. Catholic charities do a better job educating children than government — for much less money. New York City's government left Central Park a dangerous mess. Then a private charity rescued it. But while charity is important, let's not overlook something more important: Before we can help anyone, we first need something to give. Production precedes donation. Advocates of big government forget this.

We can't give unless we (or someone) first creates. Yet wealth creators are encouraged to feel guilt. "Bill Gates, or any billionaire, for that matter," Yaron Brook, author of "Free Market Revolution" and president of the Ayn Rand Institute, said on my TV show, "how did they become a billionaire? By creating a product or great service that benefits everybody. And we know it benefits us because we pay for it. We pay less than what it's worth to us. That's why we trade — we get more value than what we give up. So, our lives are better off. Bill Gates improved hundreds of millions of lives around the world. That's how he became a billionaire."

Gates walks in the footprints of earlier creators, like John D. Rockefeller, who got rich by lowering the price of oil products, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who did the same for transportation. The clueless media called them robber barons, but they were neither robbers nor barons.

They and other creators didn't just give us products to improve our lives, they also employed people. That's charity that keeps on giving, because employees keep working and keep supporting their families. "That's not charity," Brook said. "(It's) another trade. You pay your employees and get something in return. But the employee is better off, and you are better off.

"And when you start thinking about the multiplier effect, $50 billion for Bill Gates? That's nothing compared to the value he added to the world. That is much greater than the value he'll ever add in any kind of charitable activity." Gates now donates billions and applies his critical thinking skills to charity. He tested ideas in education, like small high schools, and dumped them when they didn't work. Good. But if he reinvested his charity money in Microsoft, might he have helped more people? Maybe.

Brook points out that Gates gets credit for his charity, but little credit for having created wealth. "Quite the contrary," Brook said. "We sent the Justice Department to go after him. He's considered greedy, in spite of all the hundreds of millions of people he's helped, because he benefited at the same time. (When) he shifted to charity, suddenly he's a good guy. My complaint is not that he's doing the charity. It's that we as a society value not the creation, not the building, not the accumulation of wealth. … What we value is the charity. Yes, it's going to have good impact, but is that what's important? … Charity is fine, but not the source of virtue. The source of virtue is the creation and the building."

What especially offends Brook, and me, too, is stigmatizing wealth creators. The rich are made to feel guilty about making money. I sometimes attend "lifetime achievement award" ceremonies meant to honor a businessman. Inevitably, his charity work is celebrated much more enthusiastically than his business creation. Sometimes the businessman says he wants to "give back."

Says Brook, "It's wrong for businessmen to feel like they need to 'give back' as if they took something away from anybody."

He's right. They didn't.

If we value benevolence, we must value creation.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at

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Bidwell comment: The way we made our voice heard on the fiscal cliff is by delivering the petitions and signatures to extend the Bush era tax cuts. The spending is the problem, and the massive size of our government must be addressed. Trust me, I do not want the market to crash. But the real concern should be the long-term deficits and the percentage of GDP we are spending to finance our debts.

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I'd like to take a moment to share a story that relates to John Stossel's message for us today…

Several years ago at a different job, I took one of my Romanian coworkers to visit the Biltmore Estate while he was here working in the states for a few weeks. While we were viewing the spread of food on the table in the "help's quarters," he said, "Look how many people's lives this one man was able to make better." Mind you, this young man grew up under the Soviet regime, waiting in long lines for bananas and relying on regular deliveries of rice, pig's feet, and dried shrimp to survive…

Meanwhile, it was Cornelius Vanderbilt's son George that built the Biltmore Estate… so more than just the one man, Cornelius, improved people's lives. Furthermore, the heirs are still improving people's lives today. During a visit earlier this month to see the Biltmore Estate Christmas celebration, there was a substantial restoration project going on at the house. So, beyond the regular employees who get to attend the house one evening for their own exclusive Christmas party, many other craftsmen and artisans have valuable work during a time when work is hard to come by for many Americans. Recent Articles

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Thanks, Nina. I like that article. I was invited to a birthday party a few weeks ago, where I sat at a table of some rather well to do folks. I noticed that they were all involved in one way or another with groups that do charity work; and I was thinking that thanks to these folks, some good wealth-creators among them, the world is a better place.


I agree with the main point of Stossel's piece, that money must be made somehow before it can be distributed, however he seems to miss the equally important point that not all charity involves giving money. Some of the most effective charity consists of people donating their time, their volunteer efforts, getting personally involved with someone.

  And just as those who have already created wealth are sometimes wrongly made to feel guilty, other people are sometimes also made to wrongly feel guilty for being poor and trying to create wealth. Undocumented migrants, for instance, who lack the money to bribe the U.S. government by applying for permission to enter the United States legally, or need that money as start-up capital in order to be able to create wealth, are then guilt-tripped for being here "illegally" even though they are often simply trying to create wealth for themselves and their families and communities.

Love & Liberty,
                               ((( starchild )))