Let’s Give Mark Zuckerberg a Break, OK?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that he will use 99 percent of his wealth for charitable purposes has generated a surprising amount of acrimony. I don’t really get why. Anyone who looks into it for more than a few seconds understands that the financial structure he set up doesn’t benefit him personally, so there’s no point griping about that. Nor does it make a lot of sense to make Zuckerberg into a poster boy for income inequality. There are lots of better examples. Josh Barro identifies the only real concern about Zuckerberg’s plan:

The bigger issue is the promise: to use nearly all his wealth “to further the mission of advancing human potential and promoting equality.”….[This] is, to a large degree, subjective. Most political donors believe their favored candidates benefit not just themselves but the public, and essentially all start-up founders in Silicon Valley believes their companies will serve to advance human potential. Even donations that fit within the legal framework of charity can be duds: Mr. Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the Newark Public Schools seems to have done little to benefit Newark students.

Well, yeah. There’s no way to force Zuckerberg or anyone else to give their money away. There’s no way to force them to give it away on projects you approve of. There’s no way to guarantee that all their donations will work out well. That’s life, and Zuckerberg is no better or worse than any other billionaire on these scores. Still, the mere fact of announcing that he plans to give away 99 percent of his wealth is praiseworthy, isn’t it? He’s putting himself under pressure to follow through and setting an example for others at the same time. What’s not to like?

As for the fact that he wants to oversee what the money is spent on instead of, say, giving it all to the Red Cross—well, I’d do the same thing. Wouldn’t you?


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend