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Facebook founder’s philanthropy pledge angers Ayn Rand Center

By Sahil Kapur
Wednesday, December 15, 2010 9:41 EDT
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Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has irritated the Ayn Rand Center with his individual decision to donate most of his fortune to charity.

Zuckerberg, the world’s youngest billionaire who was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year on Wednesday, last week joined a group of wealthy titans such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in signing a philanthropy pledge.

This upset the Ayn Rand Center, an advocacy outfit modeled after the idiosyncratic libertarian views of the Russian-American who authored Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

The Center blasted out a press release — which was first noted and mocked by Nick Baumann of Mother Jones — accusing Zuckerberg of “going guilt,” or trying to make other businessmen feel inadequate and guilty for choosing to keep their money.

“Other businessmen, however, have decided to ‘Go Guilt,’ i.e., to sign Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s ‘Giving Pledge,’ vowing to give away most of the wealth they have earned,” the Center’s Don Watkins stammered. “The recent news that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has signed the Pledge is making headlines.”

Invoking a column he co-authored for Forbes, Watkins declared that 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.”

The pledge, he claimed, was crafted as emotional blackmail for rich people and is the reason why businessmen “feel unearned guilt for their success.”

The controversial writings of Rand, the Center’s icon, included fierce and unabashed defenses of wealth and a deep dislike of taxes, social programs, and altruism. In modern society, however, altruism is widely considered a virtue, and few, if any, extrapolate malicious intentions from it.

“But your wealth was not an undeserved gift,” Watkins said. “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.”

 
 
 
 
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