28 May 2009

Vanity Working on a Weak Mind Produces Every Kind of Mischief

So says Jane Austen, the favorite author of my harshest blog critic. In any event, the hubris of the super-rich, anti-religion crowd is noted by the Times. This is a group that another reader, Methodist Jim, says doesn't exist, mind you:

Billionaire club in bid to curb overpopulation

America's richest people meet to discuss ways of tackling a 'disastrous' environmental, social and industrial threat

John Harlow, Los Angeles

SOME of America’s leading billionaires have met secretly to consider how their wealth could be used to slow the growth of the world’s population and speed up improvements in health and education.

The philanthropists who attended a summit convened on the initiative of Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, discussed joining forces to overcome political and religious obstacles to change.

Described as the Good Club by one insider it included David Rockefeller Jr, the patriarch of America’s wealthiest dynasty, Warren Buffett and George Soros, the financiers, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, and the media moguls Ted Turner and Oprah Winfrey.

These members, along with Gates, have given away more than £45 billion since 1996 to causes ranging from health programmes in developing countries to ghetto schools nearer to home.

They gathered at the home of Sir Paul Nurse, a British Nobel prize biochemist and president of the private Rockefeller University, in Manhattan on May 5. The informal afternoon session was so discreet that some of the billionaires’ aides were told they were at “security briefings”.

Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, said the summit was unprecedented. “We only learnt about it afterwards, by accident. Normally these people are happy to talk good causes, but this is different – maybe because they don’t want to be seen as a global cabal,” he said.

Some details were emerging this weekend, however. The billionaires were each given 15 minutes to present their favourite cause. Over dinner they discussed how they might settle on an “umbrella cause” that could harness their interests.

The issues debated included reforming the supervision of overseas aid spending to setting up rural schools and water systems in developing countries. Taking their cue from Gates they agreed that overpopulation was a priority.

This could result in a challenge to some Third World politicians who believe contraception and female education weaken traditional values.

Gates, 53, who is giving away most of his fortune, argued that healthier families, freed from malaria and extreme poverty, would change their habits and have fewer children within half a generation.

At a conference in Long Beach, California, last February, he had made similar points. “Official projections say the world’s population will peak at 9.3 billion [up from 6.6 billion today] but with charitable initiatives, such as better reproductive healthcare, we think we can cap that at 8.3 billion,” Gates said then.

Patricia Stonesifer, former chief executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which gives more than £2 billion a year to good causes, attended the Rockefeller summit. She said the billionaires met to “discuss how to increase giving” and they intended to “continue the dialogue” over the next few months.

Another guest said there was “nothing as crude as a vote” but a consensus emerged that they would back a strategy in which population growth would be tackled as a potentially disastrous environmental, social and industrial threat.

“This is something so nightmarish that everyone in this group agreed it needs big-brain answers,” said the guest. “They need to be independent of government agencies, which are unable to head off the disaster we all see looming.”

Why all the secrecy? “They wanted to speak rich to rich without worrying anything they said would end up in the newspapers, painting them as an alternative world government,” he said.


Baron Korf said...

All they are missing is Bob Barker. "Be sure to have your third world charities spaded and neutered."

Anonymous said...

I don't blame them for wanting privacy. The incredible wealth that sat around that table had to approach a half a trillion dollars. If they went public, there'd be tens of thousands of people there with thousands of different agends.

Am curious though, Tim. Seems that the privacy was an issue unto itself. Were you as put off by this privacy as you were Dick Cheney's when he secretly met with oil company executives in over 50 secret meetings to develop America's energy policy? That helped spawn the Iraq invasion of a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and no ties with bin Laden. The same policy that helped spike gas above $4 per gallon, while garnering the largest profits ever recorded by any company in the history of the world.

It is funny too - Cheney is now all for making the secret torture memos made public, but still clings to executive privelege in keeping his meetings with all his oil billionaire friends completely silent.

thetimman said...

Well, to the extent it is relevant, I was not in favor of secret meetings of Cheney with oil execs, nor was I in favor of secret meetings of the state governor on matters of policy. There shouldn't be secret meetings with elected officials on matters involving public policy.

It is a bit different, of course, in that it is at least relevant for an elected official to meet to try to decide policy, whereas unelected plutocrats really have no policy-making authority. So, no, it isn't privacy per se.

I wonder if you would be as solicitous for their privacy if they were conservative plutocrats. Like, maybe, Rush Limbaugh and the Tom Monaghan and some like minded billionaires got together to try to impose a global pro-life policy.

See, the what if thing works both ways.

Methodist Jim said...

FYI - I've never claimed that such a group doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Good to hear that you have values that transcend both political parties in the USA instead of just one, i.e. our mutual disdain for any secret meetings of government trying.

Politics is ugly as can be, on both sides. Kind of funny - despite a great imagination, I could never see Limbaugh and Monaghan ever in the same room. Egos are too big. While Limbaugh's prime job seems to be to tear down 'the opposition,' at least Monaghan has the desire to build and create. Rush hopes Obama fails miserably (AS IF the country wouldn't suffer because of that failure) while at least Monaghan is building his dream in Ave Maria, Florida.

In that vein, seriously, what would a "Global pro-life policy" look like? It cannot be just anti-abortion, as it would have to include multiple ways and tremendous resources to provide food, health care, housing, water, and other basic necessities to sustain a doubling of the population in 25 years. And typically, when those issues are addressed, it seems we suddenly hear things like "Socialism," "welfare state" and even "communism." It'd be awesome for you and your blog to come up with a systematic way to address public policy that supports life from cradle to grave.