When Is It Not Good to Give? the Shades of Grey of Philanthropy; Welsh Venture Capitalist-Turned-Philanthropist Michael Moritz Plans to Give Pounds 75m to Help Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Get into Oxford University. but Here Darren Devine Looks at How Philanthropists, from 19th-Century US Industrialists like John Davidson Rockefeller to Today's Greatest Givers like Bill Gates, Have Been Dogged by Controversy
Byline: Darren Devine
* N 2007 Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates told an audience of Harvard University students that "reducing inequity is the highest human achievement".
Venture capitalist Michael Moritz this week made his contribution to Gates' goal of "reducing inequity" with a pledge of pounds 75m to help Oxford University attract more students from poor backgrounds.
Mr Moritz's donation has been described by the university as "the biggest philanthropic gift for undergraduate financial support in European history".
The former Cardiff comprehensive pupil follows a long line of self-made men who for centuries have decided to give away some or all of the fortunes they've spent their lives amassing.
Gates has pledged his entire pounds 34bn fortune to charity and Albert Gubay, who founded the North Wales-based Kwik Save supermarket chain, last year announced his near pounds 1bn fortune would go to a charitable trust.
Further back, 19th-century philanthropic pioneers like Newtown-born Robert Owen shortened working hours, provided free medical care for staff, and set up a school for factory children in his New Lanark cotton Mill, in Scotland.
Now philanthropic "charitable business" the Community Foundation in Wales helps individual and corporate donors here find causes where their money can have the maximum benefit.
Up to pounds 1.7m in donors' money was last year given to charities supporting teenage carers, providing free music lessons for children in Cardiff and helping youngsters with issues such as alcohol, drugs and bullying.
Chief executive Liza Kellet said: "We're a business because we sell people (packages) helping to manage their philanthropy.
"People set up a fund with us or we run their programmes for them and we distribute grants."
But the history of philanthropy is far more complex than a series of big hearted billionaires having Scrooge-like epiphanies that leave them handing out cash to all and sundry.
While Owen's work in the 19th century was lauded for its forward-thinking humanity, his philanthropic counterparts in the US, like John Davidson Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, were regarded with far more suspicion.
The charitable trusts they set up to earn money for good causes were criticised as undemocratically concentrating vast wealth in the hands of a few trustees.
Oil and steel magnates Rockefeller and Carnegie were labelled "robber barons" by those who believed they made their wealth by paying workers peanuts to keep the price of their products artificially low.
When competition was driven out of the market their prices would allegedly be driven up well in excess of what they were originally.
In the early 20th century the US Congress set up a federal commission to look into concerns private charitable foundations posed a threat to the nation's future.
A Colorado coal miner complained to the commission that his employer Rockefeller wanted to give $250,000 to a retreat for migratory birds through his foundation. …