Elephantiasis and Philanthropy

The CEO of GlaxoSmithKline has spent a couple hundred million dollars to fight Elephantiasis in third-world countries. He has also spent countless hours promoting and working on the project. It's great that a person and company are so willing to help mankind. However, is philanthropy smart, economically speaking? There are benefits (good PR and that warm, fuzzy feeling), but there are also costs. I once heard someone say that Bill Gates has done more collectively for the world by creating jobs and personal computers for millions of people than Mother Teresea did for the few thousand lives she individually touched. What do you think?


Lily said...

Its a tough call. A business once donated wheat to Africa. It could have been for taxes reasons or warm fuzzies, but it ruined the African wheat market. I don't feel philanthropy for tax purposes is all that noble. Ultimately, I believe it comes down to personal sacrifice. Mother Teresea sacrificed much more than Bill Gates. She gave all she had. Bill Gates still has a lot to give.

Dr. Tufte said...

From a policy perspective, this is the sort of disease we need to be more focused on eliminating.

From the perspective of GlaxoSmithKline, I'm not sure I see the return on investment for the equityholders. Somehow this has got to get back to them: if not, the takeover market will swallow the firm, and kill the project. Either way, the equityholders will get what they deserve. The fact that a major business magazine like Forbes doesn't mention this is disturbing.