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LA Times Tags Gates Foundation for Harmful Investments
January 6, 2007 4:30 PM   Subscribe

The LA Times tagged the Gates Foundation today for harmful investment practices. The Gates Foundation generally gets only positive PR for their great work on global health. But today the LA Times presented startling evidence that the foundation's own investments are actually causing much of the harm in the communities where the foundation is working. As the poster child of the free market capitalist system, is it time for Gates to ask whether globalization is a primary cause of the third world poverty his foundation is trying to fix?
posted by commonmedia (56 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Let me see if I get this right: The Gates Foundation is to be damned because part of their working capital is invested in petroleum companies?

Uh huh. So is that why the LA Times website looks so yellow on my monitor?
posted by dw at 4:40 PM on January 6, 2007


Yeah, I don't really get the criticism of the Gates Foundation. They really seemed damned if they do, damned if they don't.
posted by mathowie at 5:03 PM on January 6, 2007


Like most philanthropies, the Gates Foundation gives away at least 5% of its worth every year, to avoid paying most taxes.

Umm. Or maybe to help people?

First that silly article in Foreign Policy about how Globalization causes terrorism, and now this? Did CrimethInc just put out a new pamphlet or something?
posted by god hates math at 5:07 PM on January 6, 2007


The foundation's endowment is: "higher than the gross domestic products of 70% of the world's nations."

Most meaningless comparison ever. They may as well tell us how many gummy bears the endowment would buy.
posted by matthewr at 5:14 PM on January 6, 2007


Since an interview I saw of Bill Gates on Charlie Rose, I've been wondering if the work they're doing to vaccinate and protect all those kids from malaria might actually have a negative impact, by raising the population and causing issues with keeping those kids fed and healthy.
posted by Dave Faris at 5:28 PM on January 6, 2007


"I'm a PC. I invest in evil oil companies that hurt people with globalization.

And I'm a Mac. With iCharity, I can cure AIDS and save the world without causing any problems for anybody."
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:30 PM on January 6, 2007


Since the kid featured in the lede of the story is being poisioned by flares of gas being burned off by a company that helps fund the Gates Foundation's vaccination program that the kid has participated in, it's a legitimate question to ask. Would this kid and others who live in the town be better off if, say, Gates' money went to encouraging the company to stop burning the gas. I think the foundation does wonderful things but the question is legitimate.
posted by etaoin at 5:31 PM on January 6, 2007


I've been wondering if the work they're doing to vaccinate and protect all those kids from malaria might actually have a negative impact, by raising the population and causing issues with keeping those kids fed and healthy.

Of course! It's keeping Africans alive that's the problem! Why hasn't this occured to me before? The solution is to let them die out and replace them with more responsible, better-educated people who drive Buicks.
posted by Arcaz Ino at 5:34 PM on January 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


They may as well tell us how many gummy bears the endowment would buy."

About 6 trillion bears. At maximum, melted down density, that's only four and a half million cubic meters of gummy bears, not nearly enough to fill the Grand Canyon, so he it's probably best if he sticks with the Malaria stuff.

... sometimes I get bored.
posted by Simon! at 5:34 PM on January 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's absolutely a relevant question. If a body wants to do good in the world, it shouldn't be simultaneously contributing to the destructive forces that necessitate it. It seems like a very simple principle, no?
posted by loiseau at 5:37 PM on January 6, 2007


The problem with this article is that it singles out the Gates family. The crime that the article alleges, investing one's money in companies that do less-than-ideal things in the third world, is something that 99% of rich people do. The Gates are better than most, because they are such major philanthropists.

Having said that, if I had that amount of money, I'd be using it to reward responsible companies, and not just looking for the biggest return on my investment.
posted by Arcaz Ino at 5:40 PM on January 6, 2007


Breathing in flare gas is bad, but it's not as bad as getting malaria.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 5:43 PM on January 6, 2007


I have a very hard time imagining how globalization is a "primary cause" of poverty. These guys had poverty before globalization turned up. What is the alternative to globalization that would have removed the poverty? Enforced global Marxism? That didn't go so well.
posted by Arcaz Ino at 5:50 PM on January 6, 2007


It's absolutely a relevant question. If a body wants to do good in the world, it shouldn't be simultaneously contributing to the destructive forces that necessitate it. It seems like a very simple principle, no?

It's awfully hard to do in practice. The best you can do is minimize the impact, use your position to broker change, and accept that there are consequences to your actions that potentially may create problems worse than the ones you're trying to solve.

Consider that the Gates wealth was mostly created from monopolistic and anti-competitive practices that bordered on immoral. Does that automatically make the Foundation's work invalid? We have thousands of Carneige libraries in the US, many of which are still in use as branch locations. Should they all be bulldozed because of how that wealth was created? So, if the Foundation is making $50M a year or more in returns on oil stocks, should we shut down the vaccine and HIV/AIDS programs being run with that money?

The criticism of the Foundation comes from people with their own agendas, their own axes to grind not seeing the Foundation paying for THEIR pet causes. I can certainly see an argument that as an organization focusing on public health, specifically global health, they should take an interest in the environmental health of the areas they work in. But their first goals are to get vaccines and HIV treatments to people who need them, so while I can understand why the LA Times writers are all in Hearstian axe-grinding mode over this, it's not something the foundation feels it has the strength to solve, and that seems reasonable to me. Get everyone vaccinated, and then let's start going after environmental health issues in these places. Better yet, with a healthy and educated population, maybe they will do the agitating for them.

It's never "very simple" with public health. Anyone who tells you otherwise is naive or selling something.

(Disclosure: my employer blah blah $30M blah blah Gates Foundation blah blah did new Gates-funded department's website for them because their outsider designer's work sucked like a Hoover blah blah.)
posted by dw at 5:58 PM on January 6, 2007


Since an interview I saw of Bill Gates on Charlie Rose, I've been wondering if the work they're doing to vaccinate and protect all those kids from malaria might actually have a negative impact, by raising the population and causing issues with keeping those kids fed and healthy.

First of all Africa doesn't have any problems with overpopulation. It has about 840 million people and 30 million square kilometers. That works out to about 28 people per square kilometer. In comparison, the worlds most population dense place, Manhattan, has about 66,940 people per km2. The united states as a whole has a population density of 31 people/km2 and china has a population density of 131 people/km2.

The point is, overpopulation isn't causing any problems in Africa. Duh.
posted by delmoi at 6:01 PM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


delmoi's manhattan figure is per square mile. The correct figure is 25,849.9/km².
posted by Arcaz Ino at 6:08 PM on January 6, 2007


Overpopulation is more than just people bumping into each other. It also has to do with food production.

The United States produces about 3609 Calories per person. Most European countries produce around 3000. China does around 3000. The average African country produces around 2000, with some as low as 1500.
posted by Laen at 6:14 PM on January 6, 2007


There are many places that are more densely populated than Manhattan.
posted by ofthestrait at 6:15 PM on January 6, 2007


... None of which have anything to do with the issue.

I've been searching around but haven't been able to find discussion of the ethical investor's paradox: The more you invest in ethical companies, the more profitable you make other investments for less scrupulous people. Has anyone else seen someone pushing that argument?
posted by anthill at 6:32 PM on January 6, 2007


If the return in $Good outweighs the investment in $Bad, I don't see what all the fuss is about.
posted by unmake at 6:33 PM on January 6, 2007


Having said that, if I had that amount of money, I'd be using it to reward responsible companies, and not just looking for the biggest return on my investment.

That's the crux of it, really - should they maximise returns in order to help more people, or invest ethically and help less people? Does ethical investment help more people in the long term than philanthropically spending the higher returns on unethical investments does in the short term? (Those aren't rhetorical questions, I'd be interested to know if it's possible to work it out. On the microscopic level of my own cash, I go with ethical investment, which probably slightly lessens the amount I give to charity. But then as soon as your money goes in a bank other than the Co-operative and those like it, you're directly funding evil.)

On preview, more questions!:

The more you invest in ethical companies, the more profitable you make other investments for less scrupulous people. Has anyone else seen someone pushing that argument?

No. How would investment in ethical companies increase profits and therefore dividends for unethical companies?
posted by jack_mo at 6:45 PM on January 6, 2007


Jack, I'm no economist, but I'm hoping someone who is will step in here... I misphrased the proposition, it's not the investing in ethical companies that has an effect, it's the not investing in unethical companies.

The general gist of the argument is that if I'm running a baby seal abbatoir, and am searching for investment, I will have to offer some incentive. If ethical investors refuse to have anything to do with me, making investment scarce, I will have to increase my incentive until some unethical investor and I make a deal.

Does this argument hold water?
posted by anthill at 6:55 PM on January 6, 2007


So it's better to innoculate them from malaria, so they can later die of starvation due to famine. I get it. Thanks!
posted by Dave Faris at 7:20 PM on January 6, 2007


At least in Australia, ethical investment trusts only return slightly less than their not ethical focused counterparts.
posted by zog at 7:30 PM on January 6, 2007


Yes Dave, I understand that treating the principle of prolonging human life as a "good thing" is difficult to grasp for nihilist space aliens such as yourself. I hope you haven't wasted your money on health insurance, since you're only going to die of old age anyways.
posted by Arcaz Ino at 7:30 PM on January 6, 2007


It's worth pointing out that, as a stockholder, the Gates Foundation's opinion about how to run the business would carry more weight.

If a big stockholder wants a corporation to be more eco/human/whatever friendly, the board of diretors will listen more closely than they would to some random charity.
posted by Malor at 7:32 PM on January 6, 2007


sigh. "directors".
posted by Malor at 7:33 PM on January 6, 2007


Laen writes "The average African country produces around 2000, with some as low as 1500."

But this isn't an inherent limit because of unproductive land. Africa has low farm production because the farming is being done by peasants with neolithic technology. And where modern farming is done, the lack of transportation infrastructure makes efficient distribution impossible.

On the "globalization" angle, I would argue that one problem Africa is facing in this regard is a refusal of developed countries to participate in a free market for agricultural products. Both the US and Europe insist on massive farm subsidies that distort the market and lower the prices that African farmers receive for their goods. Until developed nations are willing to participate in a true free market for agricultural products, this problem will persist.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:40 PM on January 6, 2007


No. How would investment in ethical companies increase profits and therefore dividends for unethical companies?

The lower demand for, and therefore price of, the equity in the bad companies will mean a higher percentage return.
posted by pompomtom at 7:49 PM on January 6, 2007


Don't care! Not listenting! (arguments about how best to help people ought to involve the people we want to help. this conversation doesn't)
posted by localhuman at 8:11 PM on January 6, 2007


and then people wonder where all these "liberal media" chants come from. Too bad the LA Times isn't a real newspaper.
posted by caddis at 8:17 PM on January 6, 2007


Breathing in flare gas is bad, but it's not as bad as getting malaria.

I can't argue with that, but I would like to add two points to make the issue :

1) People have been living with malaria for a long time and understand avoidance, symptoms, and treatment to a far greater extent than we understand flare gas issues. Quoting from the article, "No definitive studies have documented the health effects, but many of the 250 toxic chemicals in the fumes and soot have long been linked to respiratory disease and cancer." We understand malaria pretty well, not well enough to cure it, but we don't a clue with what's going on with these gases and spills.

2) Malaria offer rewards to nobody, except perhaps drug companies searching for treatments and vaccines, while industries in developing nations provide wildly unequal benefits and harm to the local population. Additionally, those who benefit from the environmental externalities have little to no accountability to those who are harmed. The unequal benefits of these environmental abuses only encourage greater usage and greater harm to the impoverished.

But you're still right that breathing flare gas isn't as bad as malaria. One particular reason I think so is because it is an easier problem to solve technically; it's only political and economic hurdles to overcome. This is why it is a shame that these issues are being ignored, or *gasp* exploited, by the Gates Foundation. I hope you can look past the overblown reporting and pitiful hand wringing to see this.

On preview, localhuman has a fine point.
posted by peeedro at 8:20 PM on January 6, 2007


Sorry, been drinking. That first line is missing a word or two. For best results, use your imagination.
posted by peeedro at 8:23 PM on January 6, 2007


Overpopulation is more than just people bumping into each other. It also has to do with food production.

The United States produces about 3609 Calories per person. Most European countries produce around 3000. China does around 3000. The average African country produces around 2000, with some as low as 1500.


That also falls right at the feet of globalization, through organizations like the World Bank. Take, for example, the famine in the Sudan a few decades ago. The Sudanese people could have grown a self-sustainable food source, but it wouldn't have been the right return on the World Bank's investment. Why? Because the United States produces a surplus of grain and relies on countries like the Sudan to buy up their excess grain. So, rather than let the Sudan create a self-sustaining food source, they insisted they grow a cash crop: cotton.

Then, owing to the invention of alternative clothing fabrics, the cotton market collapsed and literally tonnes and tonnes of cotton were piled up, rotting, around the Sudanese countryside. Tough luck. That's economics for ya. Of course, without any money, they couldn't afford to buy any of the grain or other food products necessary to feed the population, and subsequently thousands and thousands of Sudanese people starved to death.

Oh, and they racked up a hefty debt with the World Bank.

-----

As for the article in question, I don't really see the point of attacking the Gates so vehemently. Let's be honest, we're all partly responsible for this system. If it wasn't the Gates investing their considerable sum, it would be someone else. At least the Gates are, you know, interested in trying to give back, unlike so many others.
posted by The God Complex at 9:44 PM on January 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's absolutely a relevant question. If a body wants to do good in the world, it shouldn't be simultaneously contributing to the destructive forces that necessitate it. It seems like a very simple principle, no?

All of that sounds rational, except that criticizing Bill Gates is bad form.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:53 PM on January 6, 2007


I want to like this article -- I really do, as I think I share most of the authors' underlying sentiments -- but it would be far more interesting if it addressed some of these questions more thoroughly:

Why do so many philanthropies think separation of foundation goals from investment choices and influence on corporate governance is a good idea? The Foundation doesn't want to talk about it but maybe their lawyers don't want them to. There must be some credentialed, reasonably impartial egghead out there who'd be happy to volunteer a deeper analysis of reasoning for and against this policy (they talk to an expert with an agenda - that doesn't count.)

The Gates Foundation apparently invests in a lot of "major polluters," but in this case is "major polluter" merely a synonym for "big company?" IOW, a $1 billion stake in DuPont might count as an investment in a "top polluter" while 10 $100 million investments in smaller companies who in aggregate pollute more than DuPont might not. It's hard to say from reading the article, but if that is in fact the case then it's just a sensationalistic claim lacking much real informational value.

How about looking at the ethics of putting the profits of "bad" companies into performing good deeds? Maybe that's better than letting that money run free in the marketplace. Public policies that make tobacco producers fund smoking education campaigns seem to operate on that theory. So do gas-guzzler taxes. Is there a clear argument that this kind of negative feedback is worse than, say, putting the returns on more-socially-responsible investments into social projects? I'm no economist or ethicist, but I'd argue the opposite.

By not examining these issues more deeply, the piece unfortunately comes across as a superficial, knee-jerk attack, engineered to strike emotional chords with sensitive readers. I don't like it when newspapers treat me like an idiot.
posted by Opposite George at 11:18 PM on January 6, 2007


You don't have to live in the 3rd world to experience poverty. You just have to live someplace where people find excuses to screw you out of a chance. Any excuse will do. Bigotry, a funny face, being too serious, born in the wrong place ...

Globalization is the most complicated excuse I've heard for the fact that many people will grab all they can get, leaving nothing for people who aren't so aggressive.

Bill Gates is giving money away. That makes him a villain? How many people would be standing right there with a basket to catch all they could if they knew how? Jostling and stomping and elbowing and trampling each other?

There's your villain. No need for non-linear differentiation.
posted by Twang at 1:23 AM on January 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


This article is based on a flawed comparison. The foundation's spends money to vaccinate kids. Without this expense the good work would not be done.

The foundation invests some money in big oil stock. This has no effect on the behavior of the oil companies - they would pollute either way. If Gates sold all this stock, maybe the stock price of these companies would go down by a penny or two - big deal.
posted by w0mbat at 1:34 AM on January 7, 2007


The foundation as a large public shareholder, could exercise considerable influence over the way the companies they invest in do business. They, for whatever reason choose not to – to the detriment of the world, and towards the erosion of their purpose in investing.

This is stupid.
posted by blasdelf at 2:35 AM on January 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Gates foundation should expand their activities to lobby these governments to match the industrial polution standards of Europe or Australia.
posted by zog at 4:03 AM on January 7, 2007


If the return in $Good outweighs the investment in $Bad, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

If we utilize 25% of underprivileged children for prostitution to fund the feeding and medical treatment of the other 75%, I don't see what all the fuss is about...
posted by fairmettle at 4:56 AM on January 7, 2007


I think Bill Gates has some kind of disorder that makes him unable to empathize with others normally like Asperger's syndrome or narcissistic personality disorder. If you look at his track record before the philanthropy started you'd see a long history of doing everything he could to oppose the community good for the sake of his company - the closer I looked at his behavior the more I'd see that.

Before his foundation Microsoft had a history of being very un-philantropic in real dollars - at best they would "give" a bunch of copies of windows to poor schools, add up the retail cost then hold a big press conference to say they'd given away a million dollars when all they really did was train the next generation to use his product.

I think the foundation's philanthropy isn't some kind of discovery of empathy within himself, just the required tool to meet his narcissistic needs. He noticed people hated him after the monopoly ruling so he threw enough money at some poor people until people couldn't say that anymore. But he couldn't help himself from donating a big chunk of that money towards something that helps him - shoring up intellectual property rights. As I understand it Microsoft relies on the same intellectual property laws that the drug companies do to maintain their hegemony and people dying in Africa is the biggest threat to those laws. So, if Bill donates money to "free" aids drugs he gets to look like a hero and neutralize the biggest threat to Microsoft exporting it's hegemony to the rest of the world.

So to see Gates caressing the cheek of the weak with one hand and slapping them with the other doesn't surprise me - the actual plight of the people he "helps" isn't on his radar screen.... just what the appearance can do for him.
posted by alizarin at 6:42 AM on January 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have no doubt that there are places where the Gates Foundation has invested that in some way supports companies that negatively impact those people which it would want to help. Reading the article, however, the biggest item that stands out to me is scale. The Foundation was clear in stating that its investments are aimed at maximizing return. Maximizing return means more money to spend on its programs. Maximizing return is the point of investment and applying those returns to philanthropic efforts is the point of the Foundation.

Surely they could be shareholder activists or they could invest only in companies that inarguably are doing good everywhere -- but that doesn't seem to be the goal of the Foundation. That may seem unfair, but -- here's where scale comes into it...

I invest in a company and I maximize returns. If I invest in another company, I receive less in returns. I take the returns and I invest them in people. I eradicate diseases, immunize populations, contribute to the improvement of quality of life throughout the world. There's a scale issue there -- maybe the oil facility's employees and guards pay prostitutes and those prostitutes carry AIDS and in that way, the oil company contributes to the spread of AIDS. Extrapolate that to all oil facilities everywhere and tell me that eliminating polluting oil facilities will cure AIDS in the 38 million infected people across the globe faster than capitalizing on the profits of those oil facilities and investing in a cure.
posted by VulcanMike at 7:35 AM on January 7, 2007


The Gates Foundation was giving nearly $1.5 billion in grants before Warren Buffett chipped in. Now it will be making approximately three billion dollars in grants every year. The Gates-bashers need to stop and consider what kind of bandwidth that requires: they can't just throw their cash around willy-nilly; they have to plan their giving with a good deal of thought and often a fair amount of due diligence; once programs have been set up they require regular monitoring to ensure compliance. Giving away three billion dollars in a way that is constructive and in furtherance of the stated aims of the Gates Foundation is an enormous undertaking. The Gates Foundation's list of 2006 grants in Global Health shows that many grants are denominated in $10 million or less. That is appropriate- most programs couldn't handle a giant windfall without a good deal going to waste. $10 million is a lot of money, but when you are trying to give $3 billion in grants, it takes a lot of little grants to add up to $3 billion, and then you have a lot of programs to keep track of.

The public health issues that that Gates Foundation supports will never be solved by the pharma companies; there isn't enough profit in it for the private sector to pursue ending malaria or visceral leishmaniasis. Somehow that isn't adequate, and now people want them to become activist shareholders on top of everything else?

I'm not a Microsoft fan by any means, but the Bill Gates-hating I'm seeing here seems like sour grapes.
posted by ambrosia at 11:31 AM on January 7, 2007


But then as soon as your money goes in a bank other than the Co-operative and those like it, you're directly funding evil.)

But even then, isn't usury bad? The Co-operative charges interest on loans.

There's no such thing as a "clean" financial investment. Look at a mutual fund summary sometime and see where the money is invested. For as much love as people have for TIAA Social Choice, most of the fund's bond money is going into T-bills that are partially funding the Iraq war. Further down on the list is Microsoft.

And it's important to remember, too, that while the Gates Foundation has hundreds of millions in petroleum stocks, that's still a drop in the bucket compared to the sheer size of their market cap. Exxon Mobil's current market cap is $427B. That's more than ten times the size of the Gates Foundation.
posted by dw at 2:05 PM on January 7, 2007


Why do so many philanthropies think separation of foundation goals from investment choices and influence on corporate governance is a good idea?

Because they don't want where they get the money dictate how they spend it. It's a pretty sound idea, and it's also the idea behind the blind trusts presidents put their money in while they're in office.

It doesn't have to be this way, of course. But this has been an issue on some level or another for a lot of charities. I worked at a Christian charity once upon a time where some within the group wanted to refuse contributions from companies and individuals they considered "immoral." I thought they were idiots In the end, the charity didn't pass the rule because they felt the organization's first role wasn't as a moral judge and jury over their donors; it was relief and development.
posted by dw at 2:20 PM on January 7, 2007


Arcaz Ino writes "Yes Dave, I understand that treating the principle of prolonging human life as a 'good thing' is difficult to grasp for nihilist space aliens such as yourself. I hope you haven't wasted your money on health insurance, since you're only going to die of old age anyways."

It's a good thing in the right context.

In the context of an area with poor-to-no education, insufficient food supply, and no health care, one has to wonder about whether prolonging life is the right thing to do. Consider it the right-to-die argument writ large.

Sure, for the most part in North America/Developed World we can argue that prolonging life is important and useful. But then we get into a very sticky discussion about the quakity of that life. Should Terri Schiavo's life have been prolonged further? Clearly not. And while I recognize that hers was an extreme example, one has to address the question: is it more important to extend life, or improve quality of life?

I would argue that the latter is more important, not least because it leads quite inexorably to the former.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:16 PM on January 7, 2007


I would argue that the latter is more important, not least because it leads quite inexorably to the former.

But the former also leads inexorably to the latter. With longer lives, you have more economic opportunities to make and save money, raise families, and get educated. And when AIDS and malaria are wiping out the educated classes in these countries already, you run the risk of total economic and political failure.
posted by dw at 8:27 PM on January 7, 2007


There's no such thing as a "clean" financial investment.

There certainly is such a thing as a socially responsible investment.

The Gates Foundation is aiding the continuation of the exploitation of the poor by investing in companies that do not have a responsible ethical policy guiding them. The only way to communicate in our 'market lead' economy is by using your money. They are investing in companies that work against the stated aims of the Foundation.

Cognitive dissonance is rife in a country that doesn't understand irony.
/sweeping statement

posted by asok at 5:06 AM on January 8, 2007


It's so pathetic to see a bunch of losers who haven't done half as much for the world as Gates and Buffett go on and on about how the Gates foundation is not good enough. What have you done to help? What has the LA Times done to help? You all sound shrill and pathetic and no one with one ounce of sense will listen to you. Sit in your echo chambers and frig yourselves silly.
posted by caddis at 7:05 AM on January 8, 2007


Jesus Christ, Caddis, are you fucking retarded? All this blowjob space for brave defenders of Gates is moronic. The simple question that this article asks is whether the investments that the Gates Foundation makes encourage more harm than the good they do with the charity, and the answer seems to be often yes. These are the same arguments made when USAid is discussed, or when Coke donates portions of their school vending machine profits. Those unable to see a basic conflict, and the potential to influence that conflict positively, between the philanthropy and the money-making are either illiterate or so goddamned hidebound in their "Big Charity=Good!" mentality that they're refusing to think critically.
Structuralized violence, in which governmental policies (including those that restrict commercialism, or the lack thereof), kills more people than AIDS, no matter how horriffic AIDS is. It's broader and more insidious (a helpful analogy may be the idea of car crashes versus terrorism), yet gets less attention, and the response to this article shows why— people are bad at realizing relative risk, and outright idiotic in their response to articles that point it out. This was great journalism, and the next time any of you morons start moaning about how superficial the mainstream media is, look back at this and shut the fuck up.
posted by klangklangston at 9:46 AM on January 8, 2007


Seriously, Caddis, your last comment was one of such boneheaded density that breaking out the "Did any of you found Volkswagon? No? Then don't criticize Hitler," canard is worth it.
posted by klangklangston at 9:48 AM on January 8, 2007


What have you done to aid sick children in Africa?
posted by caddis at 10:32 AM on January 8, 2007


False dilemma, question-begging with regard to whether Africa is a higher priority than other ills, and an appeal to emotion. You've hit a fallacy trifecta.
Remember, you can criticize how the war is being conducted without fighting it, you can criticize the way a movie is shot without filming another, you can point out the failures of a charity without criticizing all charities, etc. etc. etc.
Or: Stop being retarded.
posted by klangklangston at 12:23 PM on January 8, 2007


My point is here that we have a lot of folks taking holier than thou attitudes who probably aren't so holy themselves. It's called hypocrisy.

Gates and Buffett gave up large portions of their personal fortunes to help others, yet get criticized for not doing enough. What's up with that?

The premise on which the article rests is false anyway. Whether or not the foundation invests in oil stocks these companies will continue their practices in Africa. Buying the stock doesn't cause the harm, selling the stock doesn't cure the harm.

Yes, there is so much more that can be done to help people, but the Gates Foundation is doing an awful lot. Criticizing them for not being political advocates, or investing only in "socially conscious" companies is petty. Boycotting of stocks has a miserable history of achieving change. Sure, boycotting the stock may make you feel better about yourself, but it won't change anything, even with the sums of money that the Gates Foundation controls. If you want to effect change, take action. Buy the stock, and then get a board resolution before the shareholders. If you want to boycott something, boycott the product, but even that seems not to be very efficient, especially for something like oil. Get your congressperson involved. Do something, but sitting on your hands and criticizing someone who is actually doing a lot, but fails to join your little boycott seems petty to me.
posted by caddis at 1:22 PM on January 8, 2007


Seems to me like buying a huge chunk of stock in Dow or whatever would be a pretty effective means of influencing company policy, no? I mean, assuming you're buying publicly traded stock, you could secure a shareholder vote without actually giving an additional dime directly to the corporation concerned. ('Viral philanthropy')?

Anybody know if there are limits on how much of a share in a given for-profit corp can be held by a nonprofit?
posted by biochemicle at 10:14 PM on January 8, 2007


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