YouTube star and philanthropist MrBeast says ‘ideally’ governments, not content creators, should build homes and cure blindness—but he won’t ‘stand by and do nothing’

Jimmy Donaldson has in the past been criticized for using the $700 million fortune amassed by his work on YouTube to right social inequalities. But the 26-year-old, who goes by the online moniker ‘MrBeast’ has a question: what would you have him do instead?

The creator posted on X this week about the backlash he has received on videos such as ‘I built 100 homes and gave them away’ and ‘1,000 blind people see for the first time.’

But the content creator—who has launched a philanthropic arm to his brand—is determined to keep up the work in the same vain as many high net worth individuals before him.

Posting on the Elon Musk-owned social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Donaldson wrote on Sunday: “When we help people (curing 1,000 blind people, building 100 houses, 100 wells, etc) people get mad and say I shouldn’t be doing this and governments should.

“Yes, ideally a YouTuber isn’t the one fixing these issues but I’m not just gonna stand by and do nothing.”

MrBeast’s blindness video, posted on Jan. 28, 2023, sparked a debate about the ethics of influencers making content about philanthropic deeds. Donaldson was accused of “making content out of people who can’t see.” Others added: “Now you have to be filmed for a YouTube video to get vision.”

The influencer, who sleeps in his North Carolina studio to cut down on driving time to the office, hit back in February 2023. Again posting on X, he wrote: “Twitter – Rich people should help others with their money.

“Me – Okay, I’ll use my money to help people and I promise to give away all my money before I die. Every single penny.

“Twitter – MrBeast bad.”

Even Donaldson, who has grown his business empire with the likes of a burger brand ‘MrBeast Burgers’ and snacking brand ‘Feastables’, has questioned before why individuals are stepping in to bridge inequalities that should, in theory, be addressed by governments.

“I don’t understand why curable blindness is a thing,” Mr Beast wrote on X. “Why don’t governments step in and help? Even if you’re thinking purely from a financial standpoint it’s hard to see how they don’t ROI on taxes from people being able to work again.”

Government and philanthropy

The confusion Donaldson experienced was encountered by another famous pair of philanthropists when they began their foundation: Bill and Melinda Gates.

The Microsoft co-founder wrote that in 1993 when the entrepreneur and his then-wife first visited Africa they assumed that “if millions of children were dying, there would be massive worldwide effort to save them.” The deaths of these children occurred because of a range of reasons: measles, malaria, hepatitis B, yellow fever and rotavirus—a diarrhea and vomiting sickness which many children in the western world are vaccinated against.

“But we were wrong,” wrote the tech titan on his blog, GatesNotes, in 2012.

The man worth $157 billion per the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index wrote that governments face a range of obstacles when it comes to funding the innovation needed to beat such inequalities. These range from being risk adverse to having a short-term lens prompted by election cycles.

On top of that, the father-of-three wrote the private sector will only invest so much in such innovations because businesses would shoulder all the risk while benefitting from a diminished level of returns.

“So when you come to the end of the innovations that business and government are willing to invest in, you still find a vast, unexplored space of innovation where the returns can be fantastic. This space is a fertile area for what I call catalytic philanthropy,” he explained. 

“The investor doesn’t need a share of the benefits—those go to poor people, or sick people or society generally, all of whom stand to gain earth-shaking returns from the kind of innovations that business and government likely won’t pursue unless philanthropy goes first. And once you’ve found a solution that works, catalytic philanthropy can harness political and market forces to get those innovations to the people who need them most.”

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