The Virtue of Generosity

The Virtue of Generosity

gravity-payments-teamI first saw the story of a company’s startling pay increases on the NBC evening news, but it has garnered considerable attention elsewhere.

The move has eye-popping value. The owner of a credit card processing company decided to pay all of his 120 employees at least $70,000 a year by 2018, which means some will see their salaries double.

While a newsworthy story, in a major metropolitan market like Seattle, that kind of money doesn’t go as far as it may sound to those in other places. Not when median home values  are more than $478,000.

Still, one of its most notable elements is how Dan Price, the CEO and founder of Gravity Payments, will free up the cash—by cutting his pay from $1 million a year to $70,000.

Legendary Musician Speaks

I’m sometimes a bit slow getting to the reading material in my own home. So it wasn’t until after I watched the NBC report that I read the cover story in the Jan/Feb. issue of AARP The Magazine. It featured an interview with music legend Bob Dylan.

Though not an expert in all things Dylan, you couldn’t grow up in the 1960s without knowing of his fame and influence on social protest and the anti-war movement that captured society’s attention in that era.

Considering that Dylan made his comments prior to the news of Price’s startling generosity, they take on a more relevant tone (and a bit of a prophetic one). Especially his question of whether a wealthy billionaire could find happiness in buying 30 cars and a sports team.

Searching for Happiness

20140827_bob-dylan_91What, then, would make him happier?” Dylan asked. “Does it make him happy giving his money away to foreign countries? Is there more contentment in that than in giving it here to the inner cities and creating jobs?

The government’s not going to create jobs. It doesn’t have to. People have to create jobs, and these big billionaires are the ones who can do it.

Instead, Dylan lamented that instead we see crime and inner cities exploding. People with nothing to do often turn to drink and drugs, he said, yet they “could all have work created for them by all these hotshot billionaires.

Jobs would help create lot of happiness, he said—an observation that echoes a comment in a book I just finished editing that will appear in print next year. In it, the author talks about how employment blesses a city.

“Not only does work produce tax revenue for a municipality, their earnings potential instills a sense of satisfaction in its residents,” the author wrote. “Meaningful goals replace restlessness and discontentment. Health indicators improve, crime subsides, and despair lifts.”

Using Money Virtuously

Dylan cautioned that he wasn’t trying to “force” business owners to take such action (“I’m not talking communism”) but questioned whether they use their money in virtuous ways.

He advocates they take such steps, though, since investment in America’s inner cities could solve so many problems. While they have turned into dangerous grounds, Dylan said they don’t have to be that way.

“There are good people there, but they’ve been oppressed by lack of work,” Dylan said. “Those people can all be working at something. These multi-billionaires can create industries right here in America.”

A Rising Tide

photo credit: TetsumoSuch wealthy magnates could follow the lead of Gravity Payments’ CEO and take a little less (or a lot) in order for others to have more. As the old saying goes, a rising tide gathers all boats.

Still, trying to force people to equalize everything is what created the 20th century nightmare known as the Soviet Union. As Dylan put it, “No one can tell them what to do. God’s got to lead them.

We can all pray the right people will listen.


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