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07/13/2008

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Jim

My theory is that the fraudsters in the US are reading the tea leaves and see collapse. That justifies their fraud on grounds that the country is so stupid to allow the political and cultural decline that they, the fraudsters, will have enough sqirreled away to survive in a large and comforable hole in the ground. Has anyone asked them about their motivation?

neilehat

Jim, Motivation? That's simple. "Mine, mine, mine - It's MINE!"

Greed is good! To bad we can't tear a page from the Ancients on Civic Virtue, "Public magnificence - private austerity".

Jim

Neil,

I agree. But to a certain extent I believe that the greed and indifference to civic virtue is based on the belief that The US is doomed as a rational, civilized entity and that the only thing that will save one is a large amount of money. Otherwise one is at the mercy of morons which includes the public and the politicians. I do not know what Becker would say about the economic and political causes and effects of cultural changes but it seems to me when popular civic and educational levels are at some critically low level, all kinds of bad things happen to a society, greed and indifference among them. Cheers.

Pinto

I have two remarks. The first:

"Given that much charitable spending is wasteful because of the weak incentives for efficiency of the staffs of charitable enterprises, economic efficiency might be increased if there were fewer and smaller charitable trusts."

That's an awfully big given. Many charitable enterprises have lower salaries for equally competetent professionals as for-profit peers, lower promotional budgets, etc. (Legal Aid is a far more efficient organization than any law firm I've ever beheld, even if we only considered the level of talent it hires at the salaries it offers.)

An enormous bequest can revolutionize a philanthropic area in a manner that even a very large one cannot; why should arbitrary notions of how many billions are efficient be used to set up speed bumps? There is no legal rationale for incentivizing diffuse over high-impact charity, and your economic one is underwhelming. If the object is to promote charity, what is wrong with promoting extraordinary charity, especially as this is likely to be so rare an occurrence? What is so terrible about a gift so large as to be potentially transformative? Isn't that a good thing?

Secondly and more to the point, I think the trust should proceed as willed. There is no demonstration that she was incompetent. There is only sniping that she was unkind, which determination is truly none of our business. As for whether she had a track record for philanthropy--yes, she did. Not on this scale, but she gave millions to charity in the years after her release from prison.

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Low maintenance pets, like cats, are also my favorite but the best pet I ever had was not low-maintenance, it was a ferret.

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