It’s hard not to get the feeling that being the little rich kid ‘who has everything’, could be a curse.
Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr Priscilla Chan have just given birth to their first baby, a girl called Max (Maxima), and have announced they are going to give away 99% of their Facebook shares in their lifetime, currently estimated to come in at a cool $45billion. Like Bill and Melinda Gates of Microsoft, they are setting up their own charity, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, where funds will be directed by the foundation to advance “human potential” and promote equality.
Zuckerberg wrote a letter (on Facebook, not paper) to his new baby to explain his decision to give away his fortune:
Your mother and I don’t yet have the words to describe the hope you give us for the future. Your new life is full of promise, and we hope you will be happy and healthy so you can explore it fully. You’ve already given us a reason to reflect on the world we hope you live in.
Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today.
While headlines often focus on what’s wrong, in many ways the world is getting better. Health is improving. Poverty is shrinking. Knowledge is growing. People are connecting. Technological progress in every field means your life should be dramatically better than ours today.
We will do our part to make this happen, not only because we love you, but also because we have a moral responsibility to all children in the next generation.
We believe all lives have equal value, and that includes the many more people who will live in future generations than live today. Our society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world, not just those already here.
Of course Max is still going to be more than comfortable in her lifetime. Of course Max will have an extremely privileged life, but Zuckerberg’s decision to give away what he could give to his daughter means he must have thought about both the morality of extremes of wealth and the impact that wealth can have on his offspring.
Zuckerberg has already seen that those who have the most, in a material sense, and those that give the most to their children do not necessarily win at the parenting game.
Watch the CNN report on Zuckerberg’s initiative below. Post continues after video.
After more than a decade of research, Psychology Today has warned that while experiencing poverty before five can be significantly detrimental to children, there can be issues at the other end of the scale too. The offspring of the affluent are more “distressed” than other youth and “show disturbingly high rates of substance use, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, cheating, and stealing”.
“The high rate of maladjustment among affluent adolescents is strikingly counterintuitive,” researcher Suniya Luther from Columbia University said. “There is a tacit assumption—even among those most affected—that education and money procure well-being, and that if children falter, they will swiftly get the appropriate services. Education and money may once have served as buffers against distress, but that is no longer the case. Something fundamental has changed: The evidence suggests that the privileged young are much more vulnerable today than in previous generations.”