A while ago, I read that Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan are pledging $3 billion to research, with the aim to “cure, prevent or manage all disease”. First of all, my hat’s off to them for giving away anything that has nine zeroes in it. Secondly, my hat remains off because they have set an incredibly difficult target and realize that, if it happens, neither of them will be around to see it. That is selflessness.
As important as that is, I would like people to think about another use for $3 billion. A $3 billion dollar annuity, at an annual rate of return of 5% yields $150 million per annum. If you divide that by $30,000 it comes out to 5000.
So with seed money of $3 billion you could create meaningful employment, with a living income for 5000 (without ever touching the original capital). In terms of “meaningful employment”, here’s just one example: I’m talking about approaching municipalities with a large number of working poor and seeing whether that municipality can find necessary, important work for someone or a few someones; to the tune of $30,000 per annum with no cost outlay from the municipality’s tax base. (One caveat…If I were doing it, I’d negotiate that the municipality cover the costs of the benefits other workers earn. Hey…there’s no free lunch, Mr. Mayor.) The differences that $30,000 could make are innumerable. As one example, it could give a single parent, working two dead-end jobs just to make ends meet; the opportunity for one full time job. So, what are the potential spinoffs of that?
Maybe working one job allows the single parent to spend more time with their kid(s). That alone can have spin-off benefits. Getting paid a living wage means that there is the ability to access better healthcare. A healthier family may mean that the kids do better in school. It may mean that, down the road, the child(ren) and parent may not require as much from the healthcare system.
Maybe working one job means that the parent can take evening classes, which will enable them to get a higher paying job. Maybe working that “Zuckerberg” job allows the person to apply for a regular job with that municipality (if either scenario happens, it creates an opening that the municipality can fill from eligible applicants).
Maybe working one secure job with a secure salary means that the parent can contemplate helping the child(ren) with post-secondary education. Maybe it means that the child(ren) can be enrolled in sports or dance or any number of recreational activities (which itself has other spinoff benefits).
Medical research is incredibly important. However, we have established a direct relationship between poverty and increased health problems; increased crime, etc. If we can take 5000 families and get them into a secure job, where they’re paid a living wage, who knows what that person and/or their child(ren) can achieve?
I don’t know whether the medical research will be able to do what Zuckerberg and Chan hope that it will do. I hope that it does. All I’m saying is that with a programme such as the one I’m talking about, their money can effect real, tangible, visible social change, right now. What effect will that social change have by the end of this century?
As usual, I welcome your comments and opinions. There are many other ideas for how to effectively use a $3 billion nest egg. I’m sure you can think of one or two. Thanks for reading and I’ll try to do better the next time.