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Published: Tuesday, 8/10/2010

Pledged for good

THE decision by more than three dozen U.S. billionaires to give at least half their fortunes to charity is admirable. Called the Giving Pledge, the new program is the response to a challenge by tycoons Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

The wealth of private American citizens is a subject that is, if not concealed, closely held. It is typically not discussed even with family and close friends. What the public hears about great fortunes might come only once a year in a Forbes magazine report.

Americans are increasingly aware that more wealth is concentrated in a few hands. Even so, the United States is eons from a 1789-type French revolution, in which the less-fortunate revolt against the status quo and redistribute wealth.

The Gates-Buffett program estimates it can draw $600 billion to philanthropy, about what all Americans gave last year, the New York Times reports. Participants include Paul Allen, Michael Bloomberg, Diane Von Furstenberg, Barron Hilton, George Lucas, Boone Pickens, David Rockefeller, and Ted Turner.

Absent anything other than pressure that might come from an awareness by the very rich of inequities in American society, it is laudable that the billionaires have taken the pledge. It's to be hoped that other wealthy Americans will follow their lead.

Everyone will be watching to see what they do with the money they give away. They need to do things that will benefit Americans over the long haul. That agenda is lengthy.

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