Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mark Zuckerberg, Can You Spare A Dime?

Facebook becomes a public company this week. It’s expected to make a google of top executives and employees wealthy, so much so that Facebook is concerned about being able to retain many of its people once they discover the condition of great wealth. CNBC Squawk Box co-host Becky Quick retweeted this week that Facebook’s chief exec Mark Zuckerberg, who turned a ripe old 28 this week, could spend an after-tax $300,000 per day until age 80, and still have money left.

Should I take the stance now in vogue in some quarters that such a huge new concentration of wealth is nothing short of obscene? And in need of regulation? And unfair at its very core? And among such young, technology-savvy people?

Heck no. On the contrary, I think it’s terrific. Someone develops a product used by 800 million people, over 10% of the world’s population, and it would appear to the untutored eye that they just might have a value proposition to take to the marketplace. Investors will elbow one another in the temples and push their grandmas out of the way to get a piece of this one. And somebody’s gonna make some big money. Ya’ think?

My twenty-something nephew told me recently that those of my generation are technology-immigrants. Those of his generation are technology-natives. And what about those who are coming along in the next 15-20 years? Interesting, huh?

Zuckerberg’s success will encourage other young Americans of the technology persuasion to keep innovating and developing. As long as our tax and other policies won’t discourage wealth building (and, importantly, wealth keeping), we’ll continue to see enormously bright and talented people bring products and services to market that will make all our lives better. Does Facebook make our lives better? Well, that’s debatable, at least to me. But social media won’t be the only business sector affected by this success story.

I can easily foresee technological innovations transforming such industries as transportation, manufacturing, and energy. Medical information and recordkeeping is another sector on the cusp of major new leaps. As a writer, technological innovation has all but turned the publishing industry on its ear.

Don’t be surprised to see Mark Zuckerberg become a major philanthropist as he grows older and thinks of ways to give back. Just like Bill Gates. Just like many wealthy Americans have been doing since our nation's founding. It’s part of our tradition, a reflection on who we are as a people. The fortunate help the less fortunate. That’s why we need more fortunates, not less. People who can spare a dime very often do.

Mr. Zuckerberg will be able to spare lots of dimes, and my guess is he’ll put most of ‘em to work in the right places.

Congrats, Facebook.

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