Warren Buffett
By Mark Hirschey. CC-BY-SA.

For the final entry of Independence Week 2013, I’ve continued the philanthropy theme with Warren Buffett. Along with the Gates’, Buffett is perhaps one of the most prominent philanthropists of this generation. He and the Gates are the originators of The Giving Pledge, a commitment by signatory billionaires to donate much of their wealth between now and their deaths.

Now, far be it from me to say what wealthy people must do with their money; I don’t believe in that. If they want to hoard it all, good for them. If they want to give it all to their kids upon death, then that’s their prerogative. But I cannot help but admire what the 105 signatories (as of this posting) to the pledge are doing. Their donations will help improve health and education in some of the places that need it the most. The beneficiaries of these donations will have a second lease on life and, in the case of education grants, a chance to lead a better life of their own volition.

None of this is new for Buffett, who has held this commitment since 1988, and was one of the first people to do so, ushering a new kind of venture philanthrophy, which uses the principles of venture capitalism to achieve philanthropic goals. He has additionally worked with other organizations, such as the Glide Foundation, that work toward many of the same goals as the Gates Foundation.

Thanks to the donations, many people in many parts of the world will be able to achieve a kind of independence that this week is intended to celebrate.


I just finished reading Michael van der Galien’s article at Poligazette [ed: removed dead link] and at Hot Air’s Green Room on the Obama administration’s plans to spend over $100 billion from the stimulus bill on education reform.  I’ve also read Andrew J. Rotherham’s article at US News where he suggests the efforts the administration are putting forth are not enough:

The recent economic stimulus bill contains more than $100 billon in education spending, a historic investment equal to about 16 percent of the nation’s annual expenditures on public elementary and secondary schools. In exchange, states are required to report more information about student performance and make “assurances” that they will work to improve schools. However, the law requires little in the way of actual changes.

Michael criticizes Rotherham:

Rothberg [sic] does not actually offer a solution – that would be taking responsibility and that is of course above the good man – but he implies that more government interference is the answer. […]

[…] not more money nor government interference but less of both is needed to improve American schools. They suffer not from too little money and too few checks, but from a tremendous lack of competition. It has to become easier for parents to send their children to private schools: this will help those students receive a better education, and research shows it helps the public school they left behind improve as well, because teachers feel pressure to improve the quality of their work if they want to keep their students (and they do).

I agree with Rotherham that the bill doesn’t do enough to make actual reforms.  It’s basically a continuation of No Child Left Behind.  Money while collecting information does little to actually change anything.

However, I also agree with Michael that Rotherham doesn’t suggest any solutions himself.  Conversely, I disagree with Michael that school choice is the ultimate solution to the education problem.  The problems with education in America are multi-pronged and will require a multi-pronged solution of which school choice is just one part.

Continue reading