I have been giving the infamous 1% in this country a hard time in my blogs. To be sure, for the most part they deserve it as they continue to amass wealth while the world around them and many of the people in it struggle. But there is at least one billionaire, Louis Bacon, who is capable of doing good while doing well. He has recently donated 90,000 acres of his ranch in Colorado to conservation. A recent story from USA News on MSNBC reports:
A billionaire hedge-fund manager on Friday pledged to protect 90,000 acres of his Colorado ranch from further development as part of a much larger planned conservation area. The Obama administration said it would be the “largest single conservation easement” ever provided to the federal government.
The easement will allow ranching and hunting, but no development. It is part of Bacon’s 172,000 acre ranch and is reported to be one of the most beautiful spots in the country and alive with wildlife. It is a most generous gift though the cynic in me keeps nagging: why on earth would a man want a 172,000 acre ranch in the first place? But I told that part of me to shut up and just enjoy the moment: not all of the obscenely wealthy people in this country are blindly piling up ever more wealth at any cost. After all, Ted Turner, who does a great deal of good with his money, has a ranch near Bacon’s that is 600,000 acres. And if he can justify owning all that land, surely Bacon can find a way to justify his ownership of a ranch only about a quarter as large — or if not “justify” it, at least rationalize it, which is not the same thing at all.
Bear in mind that Bacon’s generosity, while it is admirable, does not put food on the table of hungry and destitute families; it does not put clothes on the backs of poor children, or roofs over the heads of the homeless; it does not undo the damage done by unscrupulous bankers (as described in this excellent blog:http://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/). But it will protect some of our vanishing wilderness from the ravages of developers and oil exploration, at least for a time. And this is a good thing. One wishes there were more of the wealthy who chose to do even this much good.
Indeed, if the wealthy in this country weren’t intent on getting more tax breaks (yes, Bacon will get those from his gift) and watching their “disposable” income grow beyond one’s wildest imaginings, and if they were determined to not only preserve wild places and protect animal and fish life, but also help their fellow humans who are in need, it would be fairly easy to make a case that these people are entitled in some way to their wealth because of the immense good they are determined to do with it. But that isn’t happening.
Bear in mind that 1% of the population of this country amounts to slightly over three million people each of whom is worth countless millions of dollars. Think of the immense good they could do if they chose to do so. That is, if more of the privileged 1% acted with a social conscience, they (and their not-quite-so-rich friends) wouldn’t have to rail against an over-sized government grown large out of their indifference to the plight of the planet and its inhabitants. But few of them seem to have a conscience at all: the number of folks like Ted Turner, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Louis Bacon in the group of the 1% is very small. Unfortunately.