Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mo money mo problems

With great money comes great responsibility? Are the rich obligated to donate money to charities? Anousheh Ansari is being condemned for spending obscene amounts of money for a selfish cause such as space exploration.

For those of you who missed the articles and blogs on Anousheh Ansari, she is the first woman space tourist to go to ISS (International Space Station). She does not like being called a space tourist because she thinks a tourist is somebody who does not need any special training or preparation before s/he goes gallivanting. Anousheh had to go through months of intensive training before she could go to space.

She has invested more than time and effort in training for this adventure. She shelled out in excess of 20 million USD to get to ISS. This has inflamed some people who consider this huge amount of money wasted for personal thrills instead of donating to a charity.

I quote a comment on her blog :

I can’t imagine having $20 million dollars and doing something as selfish as putting myself on a spacecraft and going to space. The money you spent will not benefit anyone but you; you could’ve done so much more that is meaningful to so many more people. How can you look at yourself in the mirror every night when you have lived such a frivolous life? How could you have been so fortunate to have the money that you do and use it so that you are one up on your society friends at your latest cocktail party? Very sad that money does not equal conscience or responsibility.



First of all…it’s HER money.

She earned every penny by being a smart business entrepreneur and she has every right to spend it to appease herself. I cannot consider Anousheh to be a frivolous spender because she spent it on a space program. It is not like she spent her money building a house made of chocolate (granted that would’ve been awesome too). How can space exploration be frivolous? Going to space was something she had always dreamed of and worked very hard to fulfill her dream.

Having said that, it is true that people (like Bill Gates) who have ridiculous amounts of money can make tremendous difference in the lives of millions of unfortunate people. This brings me back to the questions I started with. Should rich people be held accountable to how they choose to spend their money? How do you determine which causes should be invested in and which shouldn’t? Should we not invest in space exploration until there is no poverty, hunger or disease on earth?

11 comments:

Nobody said...

Everyone has a right to spend the money they earned, in the way they deem right.
How do we define the word "frivolous" ?
I'd buy a new $1000 laptop if i get excess money, even though i dont need a new laptop. Is that frivolous ?
I buy a $5 pen just cos i like it. Is that frivolous ?
"Charities" and "helping the needy" should be a personal thing.
One shouldn't be termed "selfish" just cos they did what they wanted. That is utterly nonsense.
Not many earn money cos they want to help the needy. Most do it for their own or their families'.
JMO

Sancho Panza said...

I agree with the theme of your blog, but the example of Anousheh Ansari could have been better researched. She's involved in the Ansari X-Prize, donating $100 million for the first private space flight (X-Prize donors). Also, volunteering to fly to space in spite of the risk associated with space flight is commendable. How many would fly to space for free if they know that there's a real risk to their lives? In spite of being a tourist, she contributed to science by carrying out experiments...unlike the tourists here earth who mostly serve to trash nature. The comment you cited was totally moronic and not worth mentioning. If you want to discuss people wasting money or worse still, misappropriation of public funds, look elsewhere please.

Fleiger said...

I agree with you and nobody. (Does that sentence sound weird to you too?)

Anyways, charity is personal, so is the definition of frivolous spending. If she had put that money in some savings account or invested it somewhere, nobody would have said anything. She is investing the money in giving her a chance of lifetime, why shouldn't she?

I think that rich people should do something about the needy, but that would not mean that they should do nothing for themselves. It's the money they have earned after all...

another brick in the wall said...

duh! she earned it 4 her ownself n not 2 donate it.. wat the fuck is selfish in ths? whoz tht mofo who wrote tht comment or even thot of it! wat an ass.. how stupid ppl can get! bloody if he cares so much.. tell him/her 2 sacrifice his/her life 4 the society.. stop buying tht second dress or those second pair of shoes.. go bare feet and donate the shoes 2 the needy.. finally jst tell tht sucker 2 let be all jealous of ansari cz she went where he/she can never even freakin dream of going.. so he/she may well kiss her ass :P

mandeepsg said...

I agree though one should try and help society but you get to live just once and everybody craves to go to the best of places, eat best of foods...and own all the latest gizmos......though there should not be a limit to charity but if you can afford to donate 10% of your earnings(you get tax rebates for that as well ;-)) you have played your part.

Crystal blur said...

nobody,
Agree 100%

Sancho,
I have a lot of respect for Anousheh and I had blogged about her last week. I am aware of her contributions (monetary and participation in experiments in space). The people who made these comments are also aware of it and despite that they are raising objections. If you read Anousheh's blog there is a major discussion on this topic and she was deeply hurt...she stopped blogging for sometime b'coz these rude remarks bummed her out. So in my view the discussion is pertinent.

fleiger,
yup...I agree with nobody sounds funny. Sometimes I feel these nitwit comments like the one I quoted in the blog is just to bog down people who are doing better than everybody else.

sun4none,
that was my exact first reaction. The use of the word bloody cracked me up...don't know why :)

mandeep,
I always feel guilty to get tax deductibles on charity. Did you know that you can get tax deductions on gambling as well? I thought it was insane when I heard it the first time.

Deeps said...

This kind of reminds me of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". Do you live for others or yourself? And there will always be the needy who'll keep asking for charity. So how long are you expected to give, give and give?

If I had 20 million (the "if" is the main thing :-p), then I'd have done what Anousheh did too :).

Kripal Pais said...

this modified asops fable should put things in the right perspective. Its here mony. she has worked hard for it and she can do what she wants with it. Lazy people live on the charity of others and then crib that they arent giving enough

Maltova said...

Crys,
Two things.

1. People will have and continue to have these opinions where none is needed. Her money-her ride. A nice blog and interesting viewpoints...But yes $20 mill as you rightly referred to is an absurd amt for space travel, couldn't she have donated few pennies for people with such opposing thoughts.

2. Curious, but why didn't you link it to DSS? We'd have loved to read this...

Rajesh J Advani said...

By restricting the ways money you earn/win/inherit "should" be spent, the only thing you do is reduce the incentive to make more money. And that's the first step towards unravelling the whole economy.

If space-research/exploration is frivolous, then so is the kind of research that goes into fitting more and more songs into an MP3 player. So is the amount of money that goes into maintaining blogger.com. Or YouTube.com.

Where do you draw the line? Force people to spend money in ways other than those that they themselves choose, and you'll only start an underground market.

Instead, spend $20 million on space flight, and the money is going back to the economy instead of staying in your bank account. The money goes into the salaries of hundreds and thousands of people from engineers and scientists, to the labourers, who are hired for the purpose of making space-flight successful. That money then gets spent on food, clothing, movie tickets and maybe air tickets to Bali. And so on, and so forth. $20 million circulates as billions of dollars, bettering the standard of living of hundreds of thousands of people, even if it is only by a little bit. The money gets spread a lot more than it would by donating to charity.

Bill Gates and a number of billionaires are donating a big chunk of money to charity by their own choice. Force someone to given even ten dollars for charitable causes and you're probably doing the idea of charity more harm than good.
After all, "benefit to society" is what taxes are about, no?

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

Should rich people be held accountable to how they choose to spend their money?

No.


How do you determine which causes should be invested in and which shouldn’t?

It is an individual choice made based on his/her perceptions and priorities.

Should we not invest in space exploration until there is no poverty, hunger or disease on earth?

We certainly should invest in space exploration!