Andrew Carnegie befouled the landscape with filthy factories and underpaid his non-union workers, but he achieved semi-redemption by dedicating his fortune to the pursuit of philanthropy. Today, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace are ongoing forces for good in the world. Sam Walton similarly blighted suburbs with thousands of charmless stores staffed by a million penurious employees. Yet, he bequeathed his fortune to indolent family members who've done little more than shake a few shekels from their bloated piggy banks. To wit, the $2.3 billion Walton Family Foundation supports worthy, small-ball initiatives like charter schools and environmental conservation. Alice Walton started a nice, conventional museum in the middle of nowhere. Not a bad run for run-of-the-mill billionaires, but the six Walton heirs are collectively worth more than $115 billion, equivalent to the net worth of America's 100 million poorest citizens, thousands of whom work for, you guessed it... Wal-Mart ( WMT). Thus, the Waltons enjoy a rare and wonderful opportunity to change the world. Their limitless resources could easily eradicate a disease, transform education or, better yet, place a bookmobile or mobile health clinic in every barren Walmart parking lot. But if they fail to soon accept the responsibility of their unearned inheritance, the Waltons, and their mountain of wealth, deserve to be forgotten.
As insurgencies proliferate, investors and targets are fishing in the same small pool of candidates. Experienced executives are the ideal recruits -- and companies may have an advantage over activists.