Warren Buffett is a generous man. His gift of over $30 billion in stock to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will nearly double the size of the country’s largest charitable organization. As media coverage of the gift has noted, $60 billion is roughly five times the annual budget of the United Nations and its agencies. And as Slate points out, the Foundation’s future $1.7 billion annual disbursement requirement is roughly equivalent to UNICEF’s annual budget. Over at Tapped, Matthew Yglesias makes the important point that while gifts of this kind are munificent, there is a limit to philanthropy.

Says Yglesias:

If the foundation really does double its grant-making, that would come to about $1.7 billion per year on global health issues.

By contrast, were the United States government to live up to the commitment it’s already made to the United Nations Millenium Development Goals that would involve spending about $77 billion on third world development issues in the first year with disbursements growing proportionately to American GDP.

The Gates Foundation does tremendous work in the developing world, particularly on global health issues. Still, it is no substitute for sustained commitment on part of governments to promote a development agenda set forth in the United Nations Millennium Project.

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