Following the footsteps of his billionaire peers, the world’s richest man Elon Musk seems to have turned towards philanthropy. In a regulatory filing with the SEC, Musk revealed that he donated Tesla shares nearly US$6 billion worth to charity in the span of 10 days in November 2021. Interestingly, this amount is much more than what he had donated through his foundation in the last two decades.
While there was no clear information about where this donation was directed, it has surely raised a question—Why Elon Musk is turning his attention towards philanthropy?
Is it a part of Effective Altruism?
The recently disclosed donation follows the Musk Foundation’s eight-figure grants to the city and local school systems near South Texas spaceport, including donations to fight climate change and assistance for COVID-19 research. Interestingly, almost all these recipients have been working with Igor Kurganov, a well-known philanthropist active in the world of effective altruism (a philanthropic and philosophical movement that advocates ‘using evidence and reason to figure out how to benefit others as much as possible, and taking action on that basis).
While there have been speculations that this donation may be aligned with effective altruism, some experts believe the opposite. Alixandra Barasch (Associate Professor at NY University and an active researcher in effective altruism) cites “If Musk’s foundation is turning to effective altruism, it hasn’t shown yet. So far, a large amount of what he has shared has gone to a grants program for lighting projects, murals, and local property owners. Saving lives is the main focus of effective altruism and murals don’t do it that good in terms of the way it is measured and defined in the movement.”
A Matter of Prestige
Musk’s donation is being hailed as one of the biggest philanthropic activities recently. And it’s a no-brainer that the large gift to charity would surely help reduce what he owed to the government. However, reduction of taxes may not be the only reason behind this. In recent years, we have witnessed a lot of billionaires—part of Musk’s league—focus heavily on philanthropy.
These activities have helped them establish an example of humanitarianism as well as a positive social image. Musk, whose controversial activities and tweets are not hidden from the world, might want to improve his reputation to be one of the indisputably best businessmen in the world. However, how long “the philanthropist” in Musk will last is still a mystery!
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