The Moral Responsibilities Of The Wealthy

Peter Wilby approves of the “giving pledge” through which 40 billionaires have each promised to give half their fortune to charity but thinks much more systemic change in the ways the wealthy treat existing obligations of citizenship and corporate stewardship is more fundamentally necessary:

I repeat: we should welcome the Gates-Buffett initiative and applaud those who have joined it. Generous, public-spirited billionaires are preferable to mean ones. But remember that two-thirds of US corporations contrive to pay no federal income tax at all and that transfer pricing alone – a legal device, used, for instance, by Ellison’s Oracle Corp, that converts sales in one country to profits in another where tax liabilities are low – deprives the US treasury of $60bn annually. Such sums, which pile more taxes on the poor and reduce funds for government projects that advance the public good, dwarf what the 40 billionaires propose to give away.

If the rich really wish to create a better world, they can sign another pledge: to pay their taxes on time and in full; to stop lobbying against taxation and regulation; to avoid creating monopolies; to give their employees better wages, pensions, job protection and working conditions; to make goods and use production methods that don’t kill or maim or damage the environment or make people ill. When they put their names to that, there will be occasion not just for applause but for street parties.

Your Thoughts?

  • Aaron

    We always hear conservatives and businesspeople saying that you can’t overtax the wealthy because they are the ones creating jobs.
    If that is so, there is a both a financial and moral imperative on the wealthy to create jobs when given the opportunity.
    When taxes are cut, they must create jobs. When taxes aren’t cut, they must plan for what they will do when taxes are cut.
    We don’t see that. There was a story in USA Today about how the largest corporations are sitting on the biggest pile of money ever and not hiring.
    Tax the hell out of them if they don’t get it. If they do, lighten up on them.

  • James Gray

    Yes, the wealthy create jobs by merely having the right an the means to take the Earth’s resources unlike everyone else on the planet. The wealthy do not create wonderful jobs when they can coerce people to compete for jobs to buy the Earth’s resources back.

    The idea that taxing the rich hurts the economy was debunked a long time ago. I remember when the first Bush talked about his “trickle down theory” and everyone laughed at it immediately. Now people seem to just take it for granted. More information:

  • Kathleen Wallace

    Amen. Thanks for posting this.