Buffett and Gates: Charity, Sanctimony, or Self-Promotion

A message that I sent to the WSJ’s obfuscator-in-chief, Holman Jenkins.   Jenkins responded by saying that he basically agreed with me.

When are you going to apply your velvet sledgehammer to the gigantic con being perpetrated upon the American public by billionaires pledging their estates to charity?

Clearly, these “pledges” are not legally binding, are vaguer than vague, are intended to impose no limitations at all upon the lifetime prerogatives of the “donor’ with regard to the use or disposition of the estate, are not intended to deny any of the donor’s heirs the privilege of having at least a few hundred million of pocket change available, and represent conventional elements of the type of estate plan that the law firm for any self-respecting billionaire would virtually force its client to sign (i.e., they will serve to minimize, if not totally eliminate, any possible exposure to the very federal estate tax that so many of these folks seem to think that mere millionaires should consider it their patriotic duty to pay).

And that does not even address the possibility that some of these gazillionaires are actually thinking of putting their pledged estates into programs that, like the Gates and Buffett plans, are virtually certain to compound all the political mistakes we are presently making in ensuring that every brutal dictator on the planet is amply funded with opportunities to steal money that is supposed to be used for the benefit of his subjects.

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