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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Mark Zuckerberg's 99% Giveaway Is 100% Wrong

The announcement by Mark Zuckerberg -- the founder of the social medium Facebook -- that he and his wife will give away 99% of their company shares to a charity -- has inadvertently sent several unintended and very negative messages. I can think of five.

And none of them are good.

First, he has signified to his and his wife's newborn daughter that she comes second, that at a certain point she has "enough" and that a whole bunch of strangers come ahead of her. Their daughter does not display one ounce of selfishness or materialism if later she questions this decision. Worse, should she encounter unexpected privation, she will be fully entitled to blame her parents' adulation-seeking. The bottom line is that she, and any future siblings, are her parents' primary responsibility. Not some smug strangers.

Second, and worse, he told this to the world, when it's really none of our business, but by doing so he robbed his daughter of her privacy. This point is emphasized by its brevity. This is purely, simply shocking to the conscience. 

Third, he is also signaling to Facebook shareholders that he doesn't believe very strongly in Facebook's current share price. It's hard to spin giving 99% --- or even a far less amount -- of something away as signifying your confidence in the stock. 

Fourth, Zuckerberg is showing that he cares more about chasing and receiving the moral approval of others, more than fulfilling his real duties which are to his family, and secondly to his shareholders. This giveaway is not a virtue. The giveaway is a quick play for applause, from a segment of the opinion leaders who insist on being the gatekeepers to public acclaim, and disdain any achievement which circumvents their traditional role. As for Zuckerberg, his act is selfishness. Worse, it is public. This is narcissism. Call me old-fashioned, call me an iconoclast, call me far worse, but I believe the purest motives are the ones kept hidden. Doing good and looking good are two far different objectives. 

Finally, the fifth unintended message: He is signaling, especially to his envious detractors, that he either is not confident that he has "earned" his wealth, his achievement, or that he can be bullied by his inferiors -- his lessers in every regard -- into paying the protection money racket and giving it away in exchange for avoiding vicious (if entirely unearned) criticism.

His giveaway is totally wrong.

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