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How much should you donate if you happen to be a billionaire?

By Matthew Gordon-Evans, January 30 2020—

As most of you already know, Australia has been ravaged by a series of bushfires. As a result, a significant portion of the ecosystem as well as several Australian communities have been decimated by the fires. Pictures and news articles have circulated showing the extent of the devastation. 

In response, several different donation sites have been created to help provide relief for the victims and wildlife. Additionally, many people have gone to Australia to help in the relief efforts personally. In addition to over a million people donating, many celebrities have tried to raise public awareness of the bushfires and donation avenues and many have also donated themselves. Both Chris Hemsworth and Kylie Jenner have donated $1 million USD to the relief efforts and Leonardo DiCaprio has donated $3 million USD. Another celebrity who donated to the relief effort was Jeff Bezos. His $690,000 USD donation, while a substantial amount, has been met with some criticisms. For some background information, Bezos is the majority shareholder of Amazon and is currently the richest man in the world with a net worth of more than $100 billion USD. Many people believe that since he is the richest man in the world, he should be donating a lot more than $690,000 USD. Part of this is because other celebrities who make a lot less have donated more. 

Now, before I continue, I believe it is important to note the nature of what a donation is. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a donation as “a free contribution,” and I think most people can agree with that definition. What I would like to focus on in that definition is the “free” portion. What many people seem to be forgetting in this situation is that it centres around a completely voluntary donation where the only person who loses anything of monetary value is the individual donating. I believe it is strange to criticize someone for the amount of their donation for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I believe that someone’s income should have no bearing on how much they choose to donate because of the inherent nature of donating. It is a fundamentally optional act — something that they choose to do — and the same is true with the amount they choose to donate. Secondly, people seem to forget that any donation is a good donation because it is still giving money. It doesn’t matter if the donation is $1 or $1 million. For people to say that since Bezos is the richest man on the planet, then he should donate more than other people, is kind of ignorant. Furthermore, people and news outlets have portrayed Bezos as an uncaring, evil person akin to a super-villain, while simultaneously downplaying his donation because it is not deemed an appropriate amount for someone like him.

I’d like to remind people that $690,000 USD is still a lot of money and will go a long way in regards to the relief efforts.  This is the same amount that the average Canadian will make in about eight-and-a-half years yet people are still criticizing it. While yes, when you look at it in comparison to other celebrities’ donations, it is somewhat less. However I believe that is irrelevant in this scenario, as this is a donation, not a group project. To compare and contrast donations takes away from the act of charity and instead makes it a contest. When this happens, it seems to no longer be about donating, but instead how much you choose to donate.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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