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The $600 Billion Challenge
June 16, 2010 4:28 PM   Subscribe

"Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett are asking the nation's billionaires to pledge ... at least half their net worth to charity, in their lifetimes or at death."
posted by grumblebee (145 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wealth redistribution!!!!
posted by GuyZero at 4:29 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


SOCIALISM!
posted by kafziel at 4:31 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Quick, someone call Michelle Bachmann
posted by ghharr at 4:32 PM on June 16, 2010


If only there were some governmental way of encouraging this sort of thing...
posted by Sys Rq at 4:32 PM on June 16, 2010 [43 favorites]


In every year except 2010, there is.
posted by GuyZero at 4:34 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If they participate at all, it's likely that they'll just contribute their money to their own charities or organizations run by close friends or family members. The tax breaks and tax evasion potential provided by "charities" are a two-in-one deal for billionaires, and if there are people out there who believe that these foundations are actually meant to do good work and not just hide assets, it's an added bonus for the billionaires.

Yeah, I'm skeptical.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 4:36 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Half? Fuck that noise. Even if you give up 90% of a billion, you've still got a double metric shitload of money.
posted by box at 4:38 PM on June 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


Yeah, keep your money! Wait, what?
posted by dabug at 4:39 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not nearly enough. Half of a billion is still not half as dear as the widow's mite.
posted by The White Hat at 4:40 PM on June 16, 2010


Right now there are a lot of dudes laughing so hard their monocles have popped out.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:42 PM on June 16, 2010 [26 favorites]


The joke is that we are just a few decades away from billionaires never dying.
posted by srboisvert at 4:49 PM on June 16, 2010 [28 favorites]


The tax breaks and tax evasion potential provided by "charities" are a two-in-one deal for billionaires,

I am as cynical as the next guy, but the fact is that the Gates Foundation does real, good work and is helping literally millions (if not billions) of people through their work on malaria and women's health. That gives me hope that this cabal is a good thing.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 4:50 PM on June 16, 2010 [40 favorites]


All to waif.
posted by fleacircus at 4:51 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I challenge Bill Gates to donate ALL of his fortune back to the customers he stole it from using monopolistic tactics. Then let THEM donate it to charity, if they see fit.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:52 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pish posh. By the time he died, Andrew Carnegie had given away more than 90% of his fortune.
posted by notsnot at 4:53 PM on June 16, 2010


Seems that they are listening to Peter Singer. He talks about giving up 50% or more of your net worth every year in his book The Life You Can Save.
posted by anthropoid at 4:53 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I favor 90 percent taxation of all inheritances larger than 1 million dollars, but this will do for a start.

Meritocracy my ass.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:54 PM on June 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


"pledge ... at least half their net worth to charity, in their lifetimes or at death."

Suck it, progeny! Make your own wealth. Living off your parents copyrights and licenses isn't the same as inheriting family farmland or factories.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:57 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Andrew Carnegie had given away more than 90% of his fortune.

That's how he won friends and influenced people.
posted by jonmc at 5:00 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Most of you asshats don't realize that YOUR wealth probably seems just as outrageous to a lot of people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Why aren't YOU giving half your net-worth to end malaria in Africa?

Put up, or shut up.
posted by pjdoland at 5:04 PM on June 16, 2010 [48 favorites]


I am definitely going to do this if and when I make a billion.
posted by bukvich at 5:08 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gates & Buffet are going well beyond the 50%. I think they're being "conservative" to get more billionaires to sign up. Buffet has already promised 99% of his net worth to charity, and Gates has given a similar figure in the past.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:08 PM on June 16, 2010


Why aren't YOU giving half your net-worth to end malaria in Africa?

Well half of my net worth couldn't end malaria in Africa. If it could, I should hope I wouldn't need prompting from Bill Gates to put my money to good use.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:10 PM on June 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Most of you asshats don't realize that YOUR wealth probably seems just as outrageous to a lot of people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

which is an interesting way of saying that even though Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were born, raised and appear to live in North America, they don't really live on same continent as I do...
posted by ennui.bz at 5:10 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


notsnot: "Pish posh. By the time he died, Andrew Carnegie had given away more than 90% of his fortune."

Yea but he had many times more billions than anyone alive today. In today's dollars his net worth is estimated at almost $300 Billion. That's like five Bill Gates.
posted by octothorpe at 5:11 PM on June 16, 2010


Andrew Carnegie had given away more than 90% of his fortune.

That's how he won friends and influenced people.


Wrong Carnegie.
posted by grumblebee at 5:14 PM on June 16, 2010


that's a pentagate
posted by found missing at 5:14 PM on June 16, 2010


Most of you asshats don't realize that YOUR wealth probably seems just as outrageous to a lot of people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Why aren't YOU giving half your net-worth to end malaria in Africa?

Put up, or shut up
.

To some "in Sub-Saharan Africa", $15K a year, probably seems an outrageous fortune - but so what, are you implying that cost of living doesn't matter at all? Or that it's easily disposable income rather than a huge portion of it being claimed by essential expenditures? People living from paycheck to paycheck.

Also: 50% of $15K, or $30K, or even $100K is not the same as 50% of $1billion - that's the "asshat" part of flat tax type talk.

Having said all that, what's really needed is not so much charity as sane marginal taxes and sane foreign aid to affected areas - that will do a lot more than random Joe trying to parse which charity to donate what to.

But thanks for the rhetoric. Now, how about some solutions?
posted by VikingSword at 5:14 PM on June 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


Even Fortune Magazine's comment section makes me cringe. Don't look, esp. you billionaires.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 5:15 PM on June 16, 2010


Most of you asshats don't realize that YOUR wealth probably seems just as outrageous to a lot of people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Why aren't YOU giving half your net-worth to end malaria in Africa?

For many people on this site, if they gave away half their net worth, they would end up homeless and struggling to survive. When a billionaire gives away half their net worth, they still have, at minimum, $500 million to their name. That's several orders of magnitude more than I personally will have in my entire life.
posted by twirlip at 5:17 PM on June 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


There's really no getting around the fact that half of YOUR net worth could save MANY lives.

You might want to read this before you spout off anymore sanctimonious and hypocritical bullshit.
posted by pjdoland at 5:18 PM on June 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wrong Carnegie.

They all look alike to me, dammit.
posted by jonmc at 5:21 PM on June 16, 2010


A chunk of this thread is the mirror image of the godawful comments on the Fortune post. Such bile in some of you, you should check your spleen.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:22 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've already given away more than 40% of my income through this many-headed thing known as "tax". And what does this "tax" actually pay for, anyway? Roads? Where I'm going I don't need roads!
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:27 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Andrew Carnegie had given away more than 90% of his fortune.

I heard he gave it all to that violin player on the street...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:27 PM on June 16, 2010


Let he who is without negative net-worth cast the first benjamin.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:31 PM on June 16, 2010 [18 favorites]


I challenge Bill Gates to donate ALL of his fortune back to the customers he stole it from using monopolistic tactics.

Really? I view the first half of Microsoft's existence as the most ingenious and marvelous method of redistributing wealth from douchebags in California to the dirt poor.

The only thing better would be to wake up one day and find that most of the profits from iPhone's and shit had been sent off to cure Lukemia or what have you..
posted by PissOnYourParade at 5:34 PM on June 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


You might want to read this before you spout off anymore sanctimonious and hypocritical bullshit.

I don't see what's hypocritical, here. Study after study has shown that the poorest Americans give the largest percentage of their income out of any socioeconomic group--the numbers I've seen are usually around 4%, vs 2% in the richest households.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:35 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I almost felt a tinge of guilt* until I realized that my net worth is negative. Thank you, school loans!

*I'm Catholic and thus prone to feeling guilty.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:36 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't think of a better way to bring people around to your way of thinking than calling them "asshats." Congratulations!
posted by hifiparasol at 5:37 PM on June 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


They all look alike to me, dammit.

Carnegist!
posted by dobbs at 5:37 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just in the last six months I've seen three beautiful libraries courtesy of Andrew Carnegie. The man gets my vote for writing checks.

As for today's billionaires, I'd like to see them direct their money toward a goal of energy independence or at the least, toward some goal that could result in massive benefit for which our pitiful government won't pay for.
posted by Atreides at 5:47 PM on June 16, 2010


PhoBWanKenobi: I don't see what's hypocritical, here. Study after study has shown that the poorest Americans give the largest percentage of their income out of any socioeconomic group--the numbers I've seen are usually around 4%, vs 2% in the richest households.

Exactly, and it's also a much bigger burden for a poor person to give up 4% of their income than for a rich person to do the same. When you're poor, even a tiny drop in your income or savings can have a disastrous effect on your finances.

If pjdoland were to come out to the impoverished area where I grew up and spout his Internet Tough Guy bullshit about how "fortunate" the people are and how they should give up half their net worth, he'd get run out of town. Most of the people there don't even HAVE 'net worth' to give up in the first place.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 5:48 PM on June 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm not saying everyone here should be giving all of their discretionary income to end third-world poverty. I sure as hell don't.

What I'm saying is that you shouldn't bitch and moan that somebody far wealthier than you is only giving 98% of his money to charity when he could be giving 99%.

You've probably done things just as morally questionable. How many lives could you have saved with the money you spent on your Internet and cable bill this month?

Really, read the Singer article for some perspective. Then look in the mirror before condemning others for their failure to be as generous as you might like them to be.
posted by pjdoland at 6:15 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Everybody hates the rich and knows deep down in their heart that all rich people are evil, corrupt bastards...and everyone also desperately dreams of becoming one of them.
posted by nightchrome at 6:19 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Then look in the mirror before condemning others
posted by maxwelton at 6:25 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I'm saying is that you shouldn't bitch and moan that somebody far wealthier than you is only giving 98% of his money to charity when he could be giving 99%.

None of us asshats are saying anything even remotely like this.
posted by spiderskull at 6:28 PM on June 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


Billionares? YES! Love it! Thank you, grumblebee, for posting this.
posted by marimeko at 6:35 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Didn't Lady Gaga wear an asshat at some awards show?
posted by wemayfreeze at 6:36 PM on June 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


What I'm saying is that you shouldn't bitch and moan that somebody far wealthier than you is only giving 98% of his money to charity when he could be giving 99%.

Bullshit. 1% of a billion dollars is $10,000,000. If I can convince the poorest billionaire to donate 1% of their net worth to African malaria treatment, I will have accomplished far more than I could possibly do by canceling my Internet connection (which I need to make a living) or giving away half my $6,000 net worth (which is a hell of a lot more than most of my friends are worth).

So, even setting aside spiderskull's point, what the fuck are you talking about?
posted by twirlip at 6:36 PM on June 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Really? I view the first half of Microsoft's existence as the most ingenious and marvelous method of redistributing wealth from douchebags in California to the dirt poor.

An interesting perspective. Personally, I think a healthy competitive marketplace must be worth far far more than any amount of economic activity Microsoft could have generated. On the other hand, you might be able to make a pretty good argument for the Microsoft based PC being pretty much as healthy and competitive as possible in a real world.. Just think about how ugly the computer world would be if Apple was in Microsoft's position for the last 20 years.
posted by Chuckles at 6:46 PM on June 16, 2010


twirlip- Read the Singer article. Be sure to really think through Peter Unger's thought experiments, which are mentioned in the article. Then tell me you don't feel the slightest bit guilty about your choice to let 15 people die by not donating 1/2 of your $6,000.

With respect to spiderskull's point, one need just look at the comments before my first post to see people making the types of arguments I was referencing (Despondent_Monkey, box, The White Hat, charlie don't surf, notsnot, fourcheesemac, etc.)
posted by pjdoland at 6:48 PM on June 16, 2010


Maybe instead of giving away money to charities to further their own vanity and put their name on buildings they should pay their employees a little better. Like those armies of assembly line workers who assembled their gizmos or built flat pack furniture or maybe compensated those auto accident victims a bit better. Don't give us your charity when you built your empires on the backs of the poor.
posted by humanfont at 6:54 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe instead of giving away money to charities to further their own vanity and put their name on buildings they should pay their employees a little better.

What? You mean their suppliers' employees? Cause actual Microsoft employees are not poor. But certainly, like most high-tech companies, they have suppliers that probably don't pay well / have good conditions (both MSFT and AAPL have had articles like this recently, and really it will end up being true of anyone who has suppliers in cheaper/less regulated labor markets).
posted by wildcrdj at 7:02 PM on June 16, 2010


None of us asshats are saying anything even remotely like this.
Half? Fuck that noise. Even if you give up 90% of a billion, you've still got a double metric shitload of money.
Pish posh. By the time he died, Andrew Carnegie had given away more than 90% of his fortune.
When a billionaire gives away half their net worth, they still have, at minimum, $500 million to their name.
1% of a billion dollars is $10,000,000. If I can convince the poorest billionaire to donate 1% of their net worth to African malaria treatment, I will have accomplished far more than I could possibly do by canceling my Internet connection
Lot of grar here about how the billionaires should give more than they already are.
posted by fatbird at 7:04 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]



None of us asshats are saying anything even remotely like this.

Really? So this:
Half? Fuck that noise. Even if you give up 90% of a billion, you've still got a double metric shitload of money.
and this:
Not nearly enough. Half of a billion is still not half as dear as the widow's mite.
Aren't even remotely like that? They seem pretty close to me.

I honestly don't understand the rationale behind that argument anyway. It's taking their entire wealth and looking at every percentage less than one hundred as some kind of affront to human decency. Why not take the amount people currently give (a hell of a lot less than 50%) and praise them for every percentage they can get it to rise? If they get a handful of billionaires to join them (and they already have) then it's a seriously impressive achievement.
posted by twirlypen at 7:18 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Beat me to it, fatbird.
posted by twirlypen at 7:18 PM on June 16, 2010


Read the Singer article. Be sure to really think through Peter Unger's thought experiments, which are mentioned in the article. Then tell me you don't feel the slightest bit guilty about your choice to let 15 people die by not donating 1/2 of your $6,000.

Thanks, I'm familiar with the Singer Solution to World Poverty, and I agree it is worth reading. What does the size of my charitable donations have to do with the moral obligations of billionaires?
posted by twirlip at 7:18 PM on June 16, 2010


pjdolan: one need just look at the comments before my first post to see people making the types of arguments I was referencing (Despondent_Monkey

Dude, if the construction of strawmen were an industry, you'd be a market leader.

Point out to me where I said that billionaires should contribute more. I said specifically that most of them won't and that many of them use their so-called charities for PR and tax purposes, and not for actually helping people. Expressing skepticism that somebody will do something is not the same as directly calling for them to do it.

I'm not saying everyone here should be giving all of their discretionary income to end third-world poverty.

No, you went further and challenged people in the thread with: "Why aren't YOU giving half your net-worth to end malaria in Africa?" That's substantially more than most people's annual discretionary income.

So, how about you? Post up redacted financial records that show you've given 50% of your net worth to charity ("Put up or shut up," as you like to say), or your initial post was just hypocritical bullshit combined with a little sanctimonious bleating.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 7:21 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not really relevant, but I just looked up how net worth is normally calculated. Mine is actually substantially less than $6,000. Anyway, carry on.
posted by twirlip at 7:30 PM on June 16, 2010


I clearly said in one of my posts that I don't give as much of my discretionary income to charity as I should.

My point was just to highlight the hypocrisy of those condemning what they perceive to be the charitable failings of the ultra-wealthy, while at the same time living a lifestyle that probably seems just as opulent to the world's poorest inhabitants.
posted by pjdoland at 7:33 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Man, I'm still making payments on my net.
posted by box at 7:33 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I did enjoy Buffett's related comments.
posted by Man Bites Dog at 7:36 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Buffet's letter is pretty good. Could Gates & Buffet do even more than donating 99% of their net worth to charity? Sure. Are they doing more than 99.99% of rich people? Also sure. And they're trying to set an example. At the same time, BUffet's letter is clear that it's still not a hardship for him to give up 99%. As he says, 1% of his wealth is enough to live beyond comfortably. And unlike some of those libertarian assholes, he is smart enough to realize that a combination of genetic luck and society contributed greatly to his success.

I mean, yeah he could give more. But for fucks sake, is this REALLY the rich guy you want to pick on? I can't think of a more sane one. Buffet & Gates have also lobbied in favor of the estate tax being increased dramatically, BTW.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:39 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Much of my salary is supported by contributions from one of the guys mentioned in that article. Some of them are doing a whole hell of a lot of good already.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:08 PM on June 16, 2010


I clearly said in one of my posts that I don't give as much of my discretionary income to charity as I should.

Thus people referenced the "shut up" portion of your initial advice, since you yourself don't "put up." Lead by example, and quit being such a Debbie Downer.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:10 PM on June 16, 2010


I love Warren Buffet.

I respect Gates, but Windows ME keeps me from loving him.
posted by jb at 8:10 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


To me, it's far less important whether Warren Buffett and Bill Gates donates 1% or 99% of his net worth to alleviating suffering in the world than it is that many people in the West, and particularly the US, seem to think that any act that moves toward alleviating suffering is something to be sneered at, ridiculed, and condemned as a form of verminous weakness and personal deficiency.

As Howard Roark put it in The Fountainhead (a book that many of these people are lustily attracted to): "The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing. I wished to come here and say that the integrity of a man’s creative work is of greater importance than any charitable endeavor. Those of you who do not understand this are the men who're destroying the world .... I recognize no obligations toward men except one: to respect their freedom and to take no part in a slave society."
posted by blucevalo at 8:12 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I definitely took pjdoland's point. It's a little boring to knee-jerk at people like Bill Gates giving away unbelievable amounts of money (say, because you're annoyed by an antitrust suit against Microsoft ten years ago). What's he supposed to do, live in the apartment below mine after donating 99.9999% of his income to charity and lashing himself? (Actually, I think I need a few more nines before he'd have to live here). Because, if not... please inform us of the number you would find acceptable.
posted by zvs at 8:13 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


(To be clear, I'm using Howard Roark as an example of the way this anti-charitable attitude manifests itself, not as an example of what I myself think about the value of alleviating suffering.)
posted by blucevalo at 8:14 PM on June 16, 2010


Reminds me of an old story I heard in Sunday School. That said, there's something admirable about people who make money through very cut-throat tactics and then decide to give most or all of it away. I think Gates is definitely following in the footsteps of Rockefeller (the dead, dead one) and Andrew Carnegie. Maybe there's a twinge of guilt there, maybe not; maybe the ends justify the means sometimes, but I am certainly in favor of government stepping in for the "less fortunate" who can't "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" (read: rely on physical attributes, family, friends, etc).

Mark 12:41-44 (New International Version)

The Widow's Offering
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."
posted by aydeejones at 8:17 PM on June 16, 2010


Really? I view the first half of Microsoft's existence as the most ingenious and marvelous method of redistributing wealth from douchebags in California to the dirt poor.

You didn't really think this through. Microsoft used its monopoly to extract excessive profits from its customers, that is a legal verdict. That money didn't just materialize in the pockets of Mr. Wm. Gates the Third, he got the money by stealing it from customers, that includes governments, schools and universities, and yes, even charities. What might those $53 Billion dollars have been spent on, if it had remained in the pockets of those people, everyone from cash-starved charities to guys like you and me?

Now Gates, along with Buffet, has essentially a monopoly on philanthropy. It is like a joke I heard long ago on The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn. He said, "Bill Gates announced his initiative to eradicate the AIDS virus. He plans to buy all competing viruses, and use his powers of monopoly to drive the AIDS virus to extinction." Well this isn't really so funny now. Gates essentially has a monopoly on medical research in some areas like malaria. I have read many significant objections to such a concentration of philanthropic power. Some medical research groups have been forced to drop promising projects because they competed with Gates Foundation projects. Also there is the factor that Gates has shifted a significant amount of his fortune into Big Pharma stocks. And here he is, trying to get the Third World addicted to high tech pharmaceuticals they cannot afford.

So I think the big issue still remains, can Gates buy his legacy, and try to change his image from Monopolist and Robber Baron, or does money made by unethical means result in unethical works? I think Gates is incapable of true charity. Gates does not really donate money, so much as he assimilates charities. Gates demands a position on the boards of the major charities he donates to. I personally don't think it is actually charity if you give the money with strings attached, and the strings require you to spend it the way Gates determines is best.

This is ultimately the problem. Gates has the typical arrogance of mega-geeks. He thinks because he is the master of one domain, he is master of ALL domains. He thinks he can reshape the world according to HIS plan, when there are people far more qualified than him to spend monies to improve the world and plan how we can live. We call those qualified people "Government." In our country, power comes from the consent of the governed. But Bill Gates is now more powerful than government. None of us consented to make Bill Gates the guardian of the world.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:26 PM on June 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


I respect Gates, but Windows ME keeps me from loving him.

What About BOB?
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:30 PM on June 16, 2010


He's SAILING!!!!
posted by Cyrano at 8:48 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Far be it from me, a lifelong Mac user, to defend the Emperor of Evil, but....

Bill Gates is now more powerful than government

Bill Gates has a net worth of something over 50 billion dollars, and an annual salary of about a million. The US Federal Government has an income of 4.5 trillion dollars, and I'm not even going to try to calculate the net worth of all the property and materials it owns directly, much less what it can call upon in an emergency from the general population. Nevermind the fact that government has (a few small if depressingly vicious "security" firms aside) a monopoly on legitimate violence.

Bill Gates is vastly more powerful than pretty much every other private citizen on the face of this planet. Wild exaggeration doesn't help to make this point, or sustain your argument. I suppose you could argue that Bill Gates has more freedom to use his power - given his more or less dictatorial control over his companies and wealth - than, say, the President, who has to convince the other branches of government to follow his lead on various initiatives. And in some areas, freedom of maneuver is more important than sheer strength.

However, the US Federal government is less intensely interested than Bill Gates in certain areas of human activity (although not entirely uninterested) - including malaria research in sub-Saharan Africa. This partly (but not entirely) stems from the fact that the vast majority of private citizens in the United States could not give less of a flying fuck about sub-Saharan Africa. And there are, of course, issues closer to home that the present government finds more pressing.

I think Gates is incapable of true charity

I for one couldn't care less, as long as Gates' bizarro-world un-charity results in fewer lives lost. The issues you bring up regarding his strong personal control of where his funds go may be a function of his being an arrogant uber-geek, or may relate to the problem of corruption among NGOs and African governments in that region of the world. More details - for example, some links - might go a long way towards clearing that up. The fact that Buffett, a man who seems to have a good head on his shoulders, has entrusted so much of his charitable donations to Gates speaks anecdotally in the latter's favor, in my opinion.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:57 PM on June 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


Addenda - I think I got Gates' annual income wrong. It's more like thirty million, or something. My Google-fu has failed me yet again.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:59 PM on June 16, 2010


So I think the big issue still remains, can Gates buy his legacy, and try to change his image from Monopolist and Robber Baron, or does money made by unethical means result in unethical works?

The answer, I believe, is no. People are convinced of their point-of-view, even wildly over the top as far as I'm concerned. He's evil incarnate. End of. I've been in various IT businesses for years and MS has never stolen any of my money. If I spent it, I did it freely. I regret that apparently others had their cash stolen. I could've sworn the antitrust case was more about B2B violations rather than B2C theft. Of course your bigger than the government statement clearly indicates that you're just parodying an absurd post. Job (no pun intended) very well done. I especially like the absurd take on oversight, as if it isn't widely known that with buckets of money floating around, corruption is a large possibility. He should just give it away willy fucking nilly. Wonderful stuff.

Bill couldn't care less what his detractors think of him I suspect, nor of his legacy. If he has a legacy it will be evil devious man for some and just some business guy for others, and some rich guy who gave away money.

But what's a big issue to some is small others, and vice versa. I don't see an issue here at all, but then I'm probably not aware of how I've been duped.
posted by juiceCake at 9:07 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most people who affect positive change do it as part of a group of people working towards a common goal. I maintain that by unilaterally choosing to give away the vast majority of his personal money, Bill Gates has done more individual good than basically anyone, ever.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:09 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I agree completely with the Kabaddi Champ.

For the life of me I really can't understand why they haven't given Gates a Nobel Peace Prize yet.
posted by pjdoland at 9:14 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Now Gates, along with Buffet, has essentially a monopoly on philanthropy.

Except that, you know. This FPP is all about how he is encouraging other people with resources to get into the act and break up whatever "monopoly" he might have. Oh wait.

As for the rest of your points, charlie don't surf, I suggest doing some research on what the Gates Foundation has done in connection to, say, their flagship project, malaria research, and why their money was crucial in getting the vaccine to clinical trials for children. Hint: it's because vaccines are generally high investment, low profit to the point where big pharma is generally uninterested in researching it.

And by the way, if one of the strings attached to the Foundation funding malaria research is that any vaccine produced by effin' GlaxoSmithKline would be sold cheap and distributed widely, I am completely 125% fine with those strings.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:14 PM on June 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Money money money money money, money money. Money money money money money, money money.Money money money: money money? money money. Money money money money money; money money:

1)Money
2)Money
3)Money

"Money money money money money, money money," Money.

Money, money money money money money, money money.
posted by larry_darrell at 9:37 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is basically Gates daring Jobs to die ahead of him.
posted by Artw at 10:16 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've been in various IT businesses for years and MS has never stolen any of my money. If I spent it, I did it freely.

Don't be disingenuous. You freely gave MS far more money than you would have if they had no monopoly. Without the monopoly, you might have chosen some other company's products.

When I say Bill Gates is more powerful than government, I mean as an example, that he managed to avoid the penalties for his monopoly conviction. Gates was prosecuted under the Clinton DOJ, which set the penalty of divestiture and breakup. Then the Bush Administration DOJ caved in and gave him a free pass, an essentially toothless penalty. That is what a "business friendly" administration does for the World's Richest Man, they cowered in fear of him.

People have missed my point. Bill Gates IS Microsoft. He is inseparable from his business practices. The same monopolistic thinking that he used to rule MS is what he is using for his so-called "philanthropic" activities. He wants people to see it as charity. I see it as Gates remodeling the world according to his ideas. Gates once described his money as "for all practical purposes, infinite." How would that color YOUR thinking, if you had to find a way to spend it? You would think you had the power of god. Well I didn't pick Bill Gates as god. I think we all have the right to determine our destiny, collectively, aggregating our power as individuals. I just think that Bill G's ill-gotten $53Billion would have had a more positive effect on the world if it had remained in the pockets of the people he stole it from. We would all be incrementally richer. We might even have found the common causes that Bill Gates has chosen for us, without considering our choices. Maybe I don't want Bill Gates to engineer the medical properties of the human species in the manner HE sees fit. That IS playing god.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:20 PM on June 16, 2010


Boo fucking hoo, haters. Boo fucking hoo.
posted by Artw at 10:31 PM on June 16, 2010


For the life of me I really can't understand why they haven't given Gates a Nobel Peace Prize yet.

Yes, the Nobel Committee would be wise to give a $1.4 Million prize to Bill Gates. That would most certainly be the most effective use of their endowment.

(rolls eyes)
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:31 PM on June 16, 2010


When I say Bill Gates is more powerful than government, I mean as an example, that he managed to avoid the penalties for his monopoly conviction.

There's a vast range of possible explanations for this - including corruption or stupidity or sheer free-marketeer/anti-oversight ideology on the part of the Bush administration - outside of "cowering in fear."

Bill Gates IS Microsoft. He is inseparable from his business practices. The same monopolistic thinking that he used to rule MS is what he is using for his so-called "philanthropic" activities. He wants people to see it as charity. I see it as Gates remodeling the world according to his ideas.

I'd say you have a conflation of fact and personal interpretation going on here that you might want to examine more closely. Also, wow.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:31 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Jesus christ. "Bill Gates tries to help people with malaria" becomes, just by virtue of being him, "Bill Gates launches eugenics program to reshape the medical properties of humanity according to his whims". There is something fundamentally wrong with you.
posted by kafziel at 10:47 PM on June 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'd say you have a conflation of fact and personal interpretation going on here that you might want to examine more closely. Also, wow.

And perhaps you ought to examine the annual reports of the Gates Foundation in extreme detail, as I do every year. If Gates achieved all the goals he sets out in the reports, the world would be completely different. But Gates does not realize the human condition does not have a technological solution.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:55 PM on June 16, 2010


Don't give us your charity when you built your empires on the backs of the poor.

False dichotomy. Treat employees fairly and donate to charity.

Of course this raises the interesting point that many of these guys wouldn't be so rich if consumers were willing to pay the prices associated with actual fair pay for workers.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:00 PM on June 16, 2010


Jesus christ. "Bill Gates tries to help people with malaria" becomes, just by virtue of being him, "Bill Gates launches eugenics program to reshape the medical properties of humanity according to his whims". There is something fundamentally wrong with you.

Time will tell. You see what Gates' PR people want you to: a beneficent plan to save the poor little children from malaria. I see possible unintended consequences, like a population explosion in the world's poorest countries, that already can't feed themselves. Oh gee, what a coincidence, Gates has massive investments in oil companies that are burning waste gas that pollutes the same countries that have high incidence of malaria. Now we can't have Gates' employees unhealthy, that would be inefficient.

The problems of modern humanity are likely to get worse with merely technological solutions. When Gates and a bunch of billionaires pool their money to choose the solutions to humanity's problems, there's a term for that: oligarchy. The only lasting solutions are social solutions; those solutions must come from the people, not from the rich oligarchs. Gates cannot establish social justice for the underprivileged when he, as the world's (now second) richest man, is the embodiment of social inequity. You want me to see Gates as beneficent? Show me his plan to reengineer the world economy so there will be no more concentration of wealth in the hands of a few billionaires like Gates and Buffett.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:14 PM on June 16, 2010


Well, charlie don't surf, seems that you yourself are into the whole "remake the world in my image" thing that you accuse Gates of. And for "the consent of the governed" you speak about, in the US (where you live) most people, even the poor, don't want more equal distribution of wealth. The American dream and all that.
posted by Harald74 at 11:41 PM on June 16, 2010


Charlie, do you understand that you can condemn Gates and Microsoft for their business practices while still recognizing that the Gates Foundation is a net plus for humanity and that Bill Gates is responsible for both?

It's not a choice between Darth Vader and Yoda, here.
posted by fatbird at 11:42 PM on June 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


You want me to see Gates as beneficent? Show me...

SUPERCHARGED UNICORNS ON ACID!
posted by Artw at 11:43 PM on June 16, 2010


Another thing to keep in mind before dissing Gates and his foundation; he didn't merely write a huge check and leave it at that. He's put a tremendous amount of time and energy into these ventures, two resources that he very well can't just buy more of.
posted by Harald74 at 11:47 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


But he denied the world the awesome brilliance that was Netscape Navigator!
posted by Artw at 11:54 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, charlie don't surf, seems that you yourself are into the whole "remake the world in my image" thing that you accuse Gates of.

I don't see where charlie don't surf is doing this. He's saying that ordinary people working together, rather than a small handful of billionaires, should be the ones to decide how to solve humanity's problems. That's not charlie remaking the world in his own image, it's democracy -- genuine democracy, not the shoddy half-measure called "representative democracy" that's in effect in most Western states. Do you disagree with charlie's position? If so, why?

I don't know a whole lot about the Gates Foundation. I know they donated some resources to a lot of North American libraries; I also know they required the recipients to use Microsoft software. I think reducing that situation to a simple "net benefit" misses something that's kind of important. I've heard other criticisms, some of which are covered in the Wikipedia article. I have no trouble believing the Foundation has done a hell of a lot of good, and Gates deserves enormous heaps of credit for that, but a lot of folks here seem way too ready to dismiss the criticisms as a result ("Boo fucking hoo, haters"). Statements like "Bill Gates has done more individual good than basically anyone ever" are shockingly oversimplified.
posted by twirlip at 1:23 AM on June 17, 2010


Wait...are they really giving it away, or advocating more spending? Tell me now so I can invest in that sold gold toilet seat company.

The 80's are back baby!
posted by hal_c_on at 1:45 AM on June 17, 2010


Dear Bill Gates and Warren Buffet,

Thank you guys.

That's all I have to say.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:49 AM on June 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought all decent billionaires used half their money for broadly charitable purposes: perhaps the difference is that they do it quietly.
posted by Phanx at 1:56 AM on June 17, 2010


And perhaps you ought to examine the annual reports of the Gates Foundation in extreme detail, as I do every year.

Seriously? You actually do that? And that doesn't seem the least bit... obsessive to you?
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:07 AM on June 17, 2010


What I want to know is, do they really have Kabaddi competitions in Eastern Manitoba?
posted by bardophile at 2:28 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


You want me to see Gates as beneficent? Show me his plan to reengineer the world economy so there will be no more concentration of wealth in the hands of a few billionaires like Gates and Buffett.

He's not an economist, nor does any one person have engineering rights on the world economy.

His net worth, in terms of re-distribution even locally, wouldn't have a lasting effect on the domestic economy of the United States. One generation's disposable income in the United States goes up by about $150.

I'm sorry, but your criteria for moving Gates from the bad to good column make you look like a raving loon. Seriously, give me the name of one person who has, in history, satisfied the criteria you've set for Bill Gates (a complete re-engineering of a world economy.)
posted by Hiker at 3:58 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I respect Gates, but Windows ME keeps me from loving him.

How about buffets investments in Goldman Sachs and Moodys (one of the ratings agencies that borked the economy). Buffet projects an image of investing in regular, down to earth companies like power companies and car insurance and stuff like that. He actually gets involved in lots of high finance stuff. He basically pre-bailed out GS which get a lot of people thinking it wasn't going to go down, which got a lot of other people investing it too. His whole investment was predicated on expecting the government doing a bailout, though.
You didn't really think this through. Microsoft used its monopoly to extract excessive profits from its customers, that is a legal verdict. That money didn't just materialize in the pockets of Mr. Wm. Gates the Third, he got the money by stealing it from customers, that includes governments, schools and universities, and yes, even charities.
The same is true of the government. The fact is, if you owned a computer in the 80s and 90s you were really, really rich in a global sense. And I'm sure most third worlders pirated windows anyway. Nowadays you have computers -- in the form of cellphones -- getting some market penetration.

But arguing that taking money from the middle class of rich countries and then later giving it to the poor is morally wrong is a hard sell. It was an easy sell when he was just keeping the money for himself. That's why he did it, of course. He's buying people's sympathy and respect. But really his motivation is irrelevant from a moral standpoint.

The funny part is that by doing this, he's made all the whiny IT people (like charlie don't surf) complaining about how Microsoft = evil look incredibly petty.

--

Also I have to say over the past few years Microsoft seems to have gotten less evil and has been putting out better products. Probably because they've lost their monopoly, in the sense that anyone can write web apps.
posted by delmoi at 4:26 AM on June 17, 2010


But arguing that taking money from the middle class of rich countries and then later giving it to the poor is morally wrong is a hard sell. It was an easy sell when he was just keeping the money for himself.

YOU. DO. NOT. GET. IT.

Gates isn't giving money to the poor. He has never given one penny to the poor. He never will. Gates gives money to institutions. This isn't a "transfer of wealth" from one rich guy to the poor. This is a transfer of wealth from one rich guy to university research facilities, pharmaceutical corporations, etc.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:07 AM on June 17, 2010


I don't see where charlie don't surf is doing this. He's saying that ordinary people working together, rather than a small handful of billionaires, should be the ones to decide how to solve humanity's problems.

Uh

I see possible unintended consequences, like a population explosion in the world's poorest countries, that already can't feed themselves.

Yes! People in third world countries should not be permitted to survive diseases such as malaria! For the good of us all, they must be allowed to die, thus decreasing the surplus population. If there is to be enough food for the noble European race to eat, the rising flood of chittering negroid mouths must somehow be slain.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 5:33 AM on June 17, 2010


charlie -

We have members on this site who are doing good work directly through charitable donations from these foundations.

But, please, keep going - your posts are speaking the point far better than I ever could.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 6:01 AM on June 17, 2010


Yes! People in third world countries should not be permitted to survive diseases such as malaria! For the good of us all, they must be allowed to die, thus decreasing the surplus population.

That is not what I said and you know it.

This is the crux of technological "solutions" to societal problems. It just shifts the problem elsewhere. Saving children from malaria just shifts the problem from one survival issue to another, from dying of disease to dying of starvation. OK, first you solve the children dying from malaria problem, then you have to solve the food problem. Then you're essentially doing nation building, you're converting third world countries into developed countries. And of course we really need the entire world living by developed countries' standards, with all the huge demands on natural resources already straining the planet. Is this what the African countries asked for? I've read recent articles that describe how obesity is considered a status symbol in poor African countries, since it's an obvious symbol that you are wealthy and can afford not just sufficiently life-sustaining food, but McDonald's Cheeseburgers and a western diet with too many calories. And of course these people die at similar rates to Western obese people.

Gates' initiatives, while directed through charities, seem too much like American Imperialism, remaking the world in the image of solutions that worked for Americans. We will not save the world by American oligarchs granting money to Third World peons. The problems of the poor are caused by inequities of wealth, the top 1% of the population has 98% of the money, and uses a similar amount of the world's resources. They are poor because Bill Gates is rich.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:09 AM on June 17, 2010


you're converting third world countries into developed countries.

god forbid.
posted by Perplexity at 6:49 AM on June 17, 2010


Don't be disingenuous.

I'm not.

You freely gave MS far more money than you would have if they had no monopoly. Without the monopoly, you might have chosen some other company's products.

You know this how? Are you some sort of omniscient being? I've spent less than $200 in my life time on Microsoft software. I have had free choice in the past and now. Regardless of Microsoft. Most of my money in regard to software has been spent with Macromedia and then Adobe.

When I say Bill Gates is more powerful than government, I mean as an example, that he managed to avoid the penalties for his monopoly conviction. Gates was prosecuted under the Clinton DOJ, which set the penalty of divestiture and breakup. Then the Bush Administration DOJ caved in and gave him a free pass, an essentially toothless penalty. That is what a "business friendly" administration does for the World's Richest Man, they cowered in fear of him.

The business friendly administration cowers in fear of a business man? Hey Bill, your anti-trust behaviour is the sort of thing we like. We fear you!

People have missed my point.

No they haven't.

I think we all have the right to determine our destiny, collectively, aggregating our power as individuals.

Me too, and yet you tell me I couldn't fucking possibly have made a choice about Microsoft software and they they've stolen from me. This level of insanity is regularly brought to us by Fox News. Your Beck parody is pretty much spot on. Congrats!

I just think that Bill G's ill-gotten $53Billion would have had a more positive effect on the world if it had remained in the pockets of the people he stole it from.

Yep. We know this. Really, we do. You may think we've missed your point, but disagreeing with it's massive over the topness is not missing the point.

We would all be incrementally richer. We might even have found the common causes that Bill Gates has chosen for us, without considering our choices. Maybe I don't want Bill Gates to engineer the medical properties of the human species in the manner HE sees fit. That IS playing god.

Has Faze changed his username?
posted by juiceCake at 7:00 AM on June 17, 2010


Yes, Perplexity, god forbid. I once heard a scientist say that the end of the world ecosystem will come when every Chinese family gets a refrigerator and a car, those items would require an infrastructure that consumed more resources than most of the rest of the world. And that is what their images of Westernized development tells them they should want. The existing developed countries are unsustainable, making the entire world over in their image will only accelerate the collapse.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:00 AM on June 17, 2010


OMG the comments on the Fortune article are almost enough to make me cry.

What the fuck is wrong with people?
The richest people in America want to give half of their fortune to charity and encourage other rich people to do the same.
What is it that baits people in to screaming bloody murder over socialism, Obama, how undeserving charities are, how undeserving charity recipients are because they didn't work hard enough, etc etc etc???


America, WTF?
This makes 4chan look like an oasis of moderation.
posted by Theta States at 7:18 AM on June 17, 2010


FWIW, obesity has been considered a sign of prosperity in MANY parts of the world for much longer than McDonalds or similar fast food have existed. In fact, some of the words for "fat" and "healthy" are interchangeable in more than one language. So this is not some aspiration to Western standards. It's simply the carrying forward of a standard that is no longer relevant...
posted by bardophile at 7:52 AM on June 17, 2010


charlie don't surf: "This is the crux of technological "solutions" to societal problems. It just shifts the problem elsewhere. Saving children from malaria just shifts the problem from one survival issue to another, from dying of disease to dying of starvation. OK, first you solve the children dying from malaria problem, then you have to solve the food problem."

You mean stuff like this?

Charlie don't surf, you're gonna have to back some of this up if you're going be treated any better than a crank caller on Coast to Coast. Give us some links, because the ones we are able to find ourselves don't point to what you're indicating.
posted by charred husk at 8:00 AM on June 17, 2010


We will not save the world by American oligarchs granting money to Third World peons.

Bill Gates is out there actually helping the world with real problems, while you're yammering on about "save the world."

Individuals are not the system they live in; Bill Gates didn't create ruthless capitalism, nor did he perpetuate it by his behavior alone. He was born into it, and rather than stay a powerless cog in the machine, he innovated and accumulated a large amount of wealth and now he's giving it away, in the hopes it would inspire the same from others.

He's not a policy maker, nor is he a respected voice on macroeconomic concepts. He's a rich software tycoon. He has no business telling the world economy what to do, nor does he really have the individual power to do so. He's looked at what's realistically possible for Bill Gates to do and done a pretty remarkable thing.

Bill Gates is to the world economy what your income is to a local community one. I suggest you go out and find what kind of effect less than a percent of an economic voice has and revisit your position on what one billionaire can do to affect change across borders, governments and ideologies.
posted by Hiker at 8:32 AM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bill Gates may be the biggest and most important philanthropist in all of human history. I think that may outweigh some of his business practices.

(As a programmer and computer user, I still hate him as Bill Gates of Microsoft, but I'm gonna cut him some slack as an overall human being.)
posted by callmejay at 8:36 AM on June 17, 2010



But, please, keep going - your posts are speaking the point far better than I ever could.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 6:01 AM on June 17 [+] [!]


Beautiful.
posted by schmod at 8:38 AM on June 17, 2010


Like most serious issues, this thread is barking at some trees and ignoring the forest.

If you believe in freedom at all, then it's hardly appropriate to be attacking rich people for their choices. The fact that people like Buffet and Gates are taking charitable work seriously suggests that noblesse oblige isn't completely dead. Honestly, if I was financially independent now, I'd go work for one of their charitable organizations for like $1 a year, just to see this up close.

What really needs attacking is an economic system that obscenely rewards people who essentially just move money back and forth, while the people who actually make stuff or perform services get a smaller and smaller piece of the pie.

Most of today's top executives, even outside of the financial sector, only work with a horizon of a few years at most. Their focus is to perform fiscal card tricks to increase the short-term valuation of the company, engineer a takeover, buyout, stock offering to "cash out", and they're gone, to make a fresh killing somewhere else.


posted by Artful Codger at 8:44 AM on June 17, 2010


OMG the comments on the Fortune article are almost enough to make me cry.

They can't possibly be any stupider than the comments here. Has anyone there argued in favour of the population of Malaria struck areas of the world suffering a deadly disease "for their own good"?
posted by Artw at 8:48 AM on June 17, 2010


I rode in the Ride for Heart charity last year (75k leg) but didn't this year because my bike was stolen. I'm not sure what dire hold Gates has over that particular charity but await "education" on the matter. That my bike was stolen was somehow probably also Bill Gates' fault as the person who stole it would, no doubt, have had enough money to buy their own bike had Bill Gates not stolen money from them. It's true.
posted by juiceCake at 9:25 AM on June 17, 2010


Man, I have this uncanny sense that this idea isn't all that new... I just have this feeling...as if only recently (a few years back perhaps) someone - someone in the entertainment industry, maybe? - was saying something about greed and justice... OH, I remember!
Those who set themselves beyond Justice,
cramming their homes with riches,
overstep the bounds of what is best.
Let each man have enough, no more,
let him know the limit of his needs,
then we might avoid this suffering.
There can be no defense for the man
who gorges himself with the fat of wealth,
and kicks the altar of Justice far from sight.

-- Aeschylus
posted by mister-o at 9:44 AM on June 17, 2010


Charlie, do you understand that you can condemn Gates and Microsoft for their business practices while still recognizing that the Gates Foundation is a net plus for humanity and that Bill Gates is responsible for both?

Humans don't like complex characters much. Things are simpler if we can just fit people in the "good" or "bad" boxes we've got in our heads.

I personally think charlie don't surf has some pretty good points. Gates' philanthropy and its effects -- and certainly his life including his business practices -- are not above critical examination, no matter what good his charities are doing, and some of the criticisms leveled here ring true to me.

But the same time, as things to do with your money go, I can't come to any other conclusion than that philanthropy that has real positive results is worth some real moral credit, no matter how it was obtained.
posted by weston at 10:51 AM on June 17, 2010


Judging by the $0.00 balance in my savings account, I'd guess I give away somewhere in the neighborhood of 100% of my money every year.
posted by Eideteker at 11:10 AM on June 17, 2010


In some lights, it is good that Gates used a monopoly to "overcharge" for MS products. Doing so allowed him to concentrate an extreme amount of disposable income that would NOT have gone to charitable/humanitarian purposes and apply those funds to making the world a better place. Arguments that a democratic process (or even collective individual choices) to spend that windows upgrade money on something else would have resulted in a larger net positive in the world are weak. At best.
posted by bastionofsanity at 12:15 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Come on MeFites, you're not taking inflation into account. You have to understand that a billion dollars will only buy you a vuvuzula in the year 3030, when Walt Disney and the other frozen billionaires are thawed out. Come to think of it, it's probably time Tony Hayward considered the cryogenic option.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 12:56 PM on June 17, 2010


Gates isn't giving money to the poor. He has never given one penny to the poor. He never will. Gates gives money to institutions. This isn't a "transfer of wealth" from one rich guy to the poor. This is a transfer of wealth from one rich guy to university research facilities, pharmaceutical corporations, etc.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:07 AM on June 17 [+] [!]


I think you're not reading those annual reports closely enough.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 1:21 PM on June 17, 2010


Has anyone there argued in favour of the population of Malaria struck areas of the world suffering a deadly disease "for their own good"?

Nobody here is arguing that point. If you're going to set out the phrase "for their own good" in quotes like it is an actual quotation, it would be necessary for someone to have actually said that. You can't even stretch that as a paraphrase.

On another point:

You mean stuff like this?

Charlie don't surf, you're gonna have to back some of this up if you're going be treated any better than a crank caller on Coast to Coast. Give us some links, because the ones we are able to find ourselves don't point to what you're indicating.


No, I mean stuff like this. Microeconomic solutions like that Gates grant you cited, will not solve macroeconomic problems.

So, would you accept criticism of the Gates Foundation's medical work from The Lancet? There is plenty of other criticism. For example, I wonder if the Gates Foundation still owns that $295 million worth of stock in BP. The LATimes did a pretty serious investigative journalism story about those pesky "unintended consequences of the Gates Foundation's work. And all these criticisms have stood for years, without Bill or Melinda addressing them in anything but a superficial manner. But at least Melissa acknowledged (near the end of this article) that public concern over the secrecy of the Foundation's operations and decisionmaking is "a fair criticism."
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:22 PM on June 17, 2010


Oh I'm sorry, were you suggesting that Malaria struck areas should suffer the debilitating effects of a deadly disease for the good of humanity as a whole?
posted by Artw at 2:49 PM on June 17, 2010


Of course not, Artw, and you're deliberately being an ass to even suggest I said such a thing. I am saying that malaria is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. You can't solve part of a social problem. If you want to cure malaria, you have to take on the other problems that are part of the same society. Otherwise, you're just making things worse.

Why don't you read some of the criticism instead of snarking? Or is that too much for you to handle? For example, the LA Times article that says Africans are dying of easily preventable medical conditions because all the Gates money drew away all the skilled medical practitioners into the AIDS and malaria programs, neglecting more fundamental public health issues like child mortality or basic nutrition. Here's a significant quote:

"Many AIDS patients have so little food that they vomit their free AIDS pills."

Let them eat cake.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:48 PM on June 17, 2010


Sorry, I can't help going back to this, where you verge on racist claptrap...

I see possible unintended consequences, like a population explosion in the world's poorest countries, that already can't feed themselves.

Now, you know that Malaria has a significant economic impact, particularly in the area of food production, right? Those poor farmers who can't feed themselves would do a much better job of it if not shivering and feinting everywhere.

Oh, and when you keep on saying "That is not what I said"? Yeah, actually you did. Maybe you should consider the possibility that what you said was stupid.
posted by Artw at 4:23 PM on June 17, 2010


Gates isn't giving money to the poor. He has never given one penny to the poor. He never will. Gates gives money to institutions. This isn't a "transfer of wealth" from one rich guy to the poor. This is a transfer of wealth from one rich guy to university research facilities, pharmaceutical corporations, etc.

I have great sympathy for the difficulty of finding information on the internet (we need a card catalog or something!), so I did some research. As it turns out, there is actually a searchable database of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grants.

Here's one I pulled pretty much at random, a grant to Oxfam in November of 2009.

"Purpose: to contribute toward the alleviation of hunger, malnutrition, and the deterioration of water availability through relief interventions and the building and preservation of assets for communities affected by the food crisis and drought in the Ormoia, Borena, and West Arsi zones of Ethiopia
Amount: $1,232,230"
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:24 PM on June 17, 2010


Here's one I pulled pretty much at random, a grant to Oxfam in November of 2009.

Right, like I said, Gates doesn't give money to the poor, he gives money to institutions. Oxfam is an institution.

And Artw, there's no use arguing with you, as you are unwilling to engage in anything other than ad hominem arguments. That is a very convenient way to avoid the core issue, which you can recast any way you like, but it's still trolling. But just in case something can actually penetrate your thick skull, I will provide a link to an interesting story that just appeared today, from an real person who did real charity work in Africa:

The Real Cost of Free: Why products distributed for nothing in the developing world may be a gift to no one.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:53 PM on June 17, 2010


But they bought food and water treatment equipment with it. I don't get the objection. Is your critique that they should've gotten a phone book (I bet those are super accurate in Ethiopia) and a set of darts and started mailing checks? What could possibly be wrong with donating money to Oxfam?
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:58 PM on June 17, 2010


Right, like I said, Gates doesn't give money to the poor, he gives money to institutions. Oxfam is an institution.

Are you insane? Do you really think the best thing the Gates Foundation could do with the literally billions of dollars they give in grants is to walk down the street handing out alms to the poor? That's such a ludicrous idea that I can't bring myself to believe that you're participating in this discussion in good faith.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 5:11 PM on June 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


And Artw, there's no use arguing with you, as you are unwilling to engage in anything other than ad hominem arguments.

Dude, like I'm going to take advice on ad hominems and conversational eteiquette from the guy who launched into the thread with this.

And my point regarding the economic impact of malaria stands.

But please, feel free to continue Googling up random negative crap in vein effort to persuade people you actually know anything about the subject.
posted by Artw at 5:14 PM on June 17, 2010


Giving grants to institutions empowers those institutions, rather than the people who need the help. Gates does nothing to empower the people he seeks to help, he is disempowering them by making them dependent. This is a longstanding objection to the way institutional aid is delivered. And it is a perfectly reasonable objection.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:16 PM on June 17, 2010


In your obviously thorough investigation of the Gates Foundation annual reports, did you not notice the emphasis on financial services development, particularly microlending aimed at enabling people to start their own businesses?

I feel like I am caught in a terrible remake of the classic film Enemy of the Good starring Perfect in the title role.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:22 PM on June 17, 2010


Yes, fm, and I already said that microeconomic solutions won't fix macroeconomic problems. Even Gates' and Buffett's billions can't lift a whole economy by giving microloans. Throwing money at the poor doesn't solve their problems. Societal change solves their problems. I don't see Gates working on societal change, he is reinforcing the existing power structures.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:48 PM on June 17, 2010


Right, like I said, Gates doesn't give money to the poor, he gives money to institutions. Oxfam is an institution.

If only Bill Gates practiced Clay Davis style charity.
posted by juiceCake at 6:00 PM on June 17, 2010


If the ability to start your own business, bringing productivity into an economy where there previously was very little, if any, is not societal change, I'm not sure what is. This is pretty much a textbook example of how the industrial revolution ignited the economy of the United States and other international powers.

I guess I just don't understand at a fundamental level how this sort of charity is worthy of scorn. If your ideas are so much better and will improve the lives of so many more people in such a fundamental way, have you brought them to their attention? Again, are you sure you aren't arguing against the good in favor of the perfect?

I agree with Nothing... above. I find it difficult to believe that this is a good faith argument.
posted by feloniousmonk at 7:50 PM on June 17, 2010


I can't bring myself to believe that you're participating in this discussion in good faith

For what it's worth, I think charlie don't surf is arguing in good faith. After all, if he's arguing in bad faith, he's really not doing much except get people here ticked off. And frankly, the population explosion argument is one I've heard from a fair number of earnest (if in my opinion profoundly disturbing) people.

microeconomic solutions won't fix macroeconomic problems

That's the core of his argument. I don't agree. I think that people who aren't constantly sick, who are building their own businesses, are capable in the long term of changing their social and political environment. Even if that (just or unjust) social and political environment gave them the leg up they needed in the first place. That's how most revolutions get started. Give people a little freedom, they want more. And the first and most basic freedom is the freedom from being at death's freaking door every day.

As for the whole "well, but population explosion" - Malthus was saying that several centuries ago. Turns out that if you get a whole lot of relatively healthy, relatively free people together and confront them with the problem of starvation, they start coming up with ways to either a) grow more food or b) redistribute the food more equitably. I suspect all those Third Worlders will surprise you, charlie don't surf, given half the chance. And I imagine they'd much rather get that chance at the hands of someone like Gates than wait patiently until you and yours have fixed the grand problems of capitalism, functional democracy and the global geopolitical system.

I don't see Gates working on societal change, he is reinforcing the existing power structures

This, though, seems somewhat hypocritical, given that you just spent several comments bemoaning the fact that Gates is, in fact, attempting serious social engineering projects - playing God, as I think your words were. Seems a bit inconsistent. The problem isn't that he isn't trying to force societal change, he's doing it in ways you don't think will work (see paragraph above, micro-to-macro) or in ways you don't agree with (those which leave large scale power structures intact, for now at least).
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:30 PM on June 17, 2010


I don't see Gates working on societal change, he is reinforcing the existing power structures.

Charlie, after I strip all the grar out of your posts, I really can't tell what you're arguing Gates should be doing. Pretend that you're his charity advisor, and he's just asked you how to use the billions he's set aside. What do you tell him?
posted by fatbird at 9:37 AM on June 18, 2010


fatbird, I think I was rather explicit in my first comment, he should give the money back to the people he extracted it from by means of illegal monopolistic tactics. Gates doesn't have the right to this money since it was obtained by illegal means.

But I sense you are asking me for a more Gates Foundation-like operation. Well, I don't think there is anything that such a foundation can really do that won't just exacerbate any situation it tries to address. But Gates has $56 Billion, which is enough to give every person on the planet $90. To 95% of the world population, $90 is a vast fortune.

Ultimately, it is my firm conviction that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and with that much money, Gates has absolute power to do whatever he wants. I want to go to the other end of the spectrum, give every man an equal share of that power. Funding organizations or governments only reinforces their power over the people. Every single individual on earth has a different dream, worthy of support, even if it's only $90 worth.

I sense you are still dissatisfied with my proposals. As I also said, microeconomic solutions don't fix macroeconomic problems. I can't even imagine what could be done to address the widening disparity between rich and poor, which IMHO is what drives the major societal problems of today. Sorry, I don't have the answers, and neither does Bill Gates (even though he thinks he does).
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:19 PM on June 18, 2010


Yeah, that's pretty dissatisfying.

he should give the money back to the people he extracted it from by means of illegal monopolistic tactics

This is a non-starter, and even if Gates did something like this, most of the money would go to corporations that paid for business licences, not to individuals--unless you're planning to stipulate some plan that allows for the money going to businesses to be redistributed to people who ultimately footed the increased bill for the consumer goods and services that were incrementally more expensive in virtue of the companies paying too much for their OS.

And even then, if such a plan were enacted, we're approximately where we are with your second proposal, except it would be concentrated in the first world:

But Gates has $56 Billion, which is enough to give every person on the planet $90. To 95% of the world population, $90 is a vast fortune.

Your math is off. $56 billion divided between 6.6 billion people is $8.48/person.

You're correct that to a large number of people, that's a sizable sum that would make a real difference in their lives. But here's the thing: very little of that $56 billion would end up addressing systemic issues like malaria. In most cases it would address immediate problems. And so large scale issues that require concentrating resources in order to address them would instead go unaddressed.

So, yes, your proposal is dissatisfying, insofar as, in isolation, it would make much less of a difference in the long run than could be made by intelligently applying it to more fundamental problems like drinking water and roads and malaria.

As I also said, microeconomic solutions don't fix macroeconomic problems. I can't even imagine what could be done to address the widening disparity between rich and poor, which IMHO is what drives the major societal problems of today.

Which is what makes your tremendous disdain for Gates and his foundation seem totally misplaced. If Gates took your literal advice, there'd be virtually no change in the basic problems that you identify or that others would identify as being large-scale problems for them. You admit that nothing Gates does could really address the problems you see. And yet you're bothered by Gates so much that you pore over the Foundation's annual reports in order to crap on him for... failing to do what, exactly? He can't solve the problems you identify, and if he took your advice, he wouldn't address the problems that he sees either. There's nothing Gates could ever do to mitigate your contempt for him.
posted by fatbird at 10:45 PM on June 18, 2010


I favor 90 percent taxation of all inheritances larger than 1 million dollars, but this will do for a start.

There goes the modest family farm. A 40 acre parcel's value goes up pretty high when the hipsters start moving in. A tax regime like you propose would literally make farming impossible within normal commuting distance of major cities. So much for the locally-grown food movement and ecological responsibility.
posted by thesmophoron at 5:40 AM on June 19, 2010


Considering the number of laws and exemptions to laws that already exist for farming, it's not exactly a huge challenge to create inheritance laws that handle farms differently. In Canada at least if you run a farm you file a completely different set of taxes with completely different rules for handling gains, losses, depreciation, etc. It's not like lawmakers are unaware of this issue.

If you're inheriting money, it all gets taxed. If it's farmland, complex rules apply.
posted by GuyZero at 9:43 AM on June 19, 2010


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