ALFRED Nobel was a smart Swedish man. He made a fortune as a chemist, industrialist and engineer but his great discovery was how to make dynamite. But he is remembered today as the great benefactor who created the Nobel Prize awarded to those "who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind".
Then there was Cecil Rhodes, an Englishman, a statesman and "builder of British South Africa" who made a fortune out of diamonds. His legacy was the creation of the Rhodes scholarship which provides grants for the brightest children (albeit from selected countries) to attend Oxford University.
In the US there are great museums and libraries created through the generosity of very wealthy people.
Australia is said to have 18 billionaires. It would be interesting to know what they will leave behind, apart from big holes on the ground.
The obvious question is, why would anyone want a billion dollars or more? A fraction of that would provide most people with a super-luxurious lifestyle, or do these people simply collect money, as a stamp collector would collect stamps? Or is it the power that wealth provides?
But, if they are looking at ways they could use that money to help others, maybe someone could suggest they read up about Messrs Nobel and Rhodes. This might even lead to them creating a scholarship scheme to encourage the brightest and most enthusiastic students from the South Pacific to attend one of Australia's top universities, there could even be a special clause to allocate, say, half the scholarships to those countries to our north, from Indonesia to PNG, the Solomons, Samoa and Fiji.
There would be keen competition for such a prestigious award. Not only would such a scholarship provide a first class opportunity for the brightest young people to achieve a top level education but those students could, in turn, become future leaders.
Apart from the direct benefits for the students themselves, it might be a way of helping some of these smaller countries from becoming failed states. On a purely selfish level, helping these countries survive in an increasingly competitive world is important to the whole region.
And failed states in our neighbourhood could lead to them becoming bases for drug lords or terrorists.
Maybe this would be a much greater monument to the wealthy 18 than just leaving big holes in the ground.