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Bill Gates becomes a Philanthropist

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Bill Gates announced that he was going to phase himself out of MSFT. We'll never know for sure, but I suspect he would have stayed if he thought he could take the company places and enjoy the process. His lessened ability to do so, over the last decade or so, is not only a function of his competitors -- it was also, in part, the result of government intervention.

Sen. Orrin Hatch should be rejoicing today, since he played a large role in crippling MSFT. The worthy senator granted certain types of monopoly-power to MSFT competitors [i.e. a government-sanctioned power to engage in some business activity, which the government denies to others, without legitimate cause].

Hatch's anti-MSFT crusade was fought on behalf of a constituent Utah company that MSFT was thrashing in the marketplace. Now, the worthy senator is going to bat to help another Utah constituent -- the internet-based OverStock.com, whose whining CEO, Patrick Byrne. This so-called businessman and the senator he funds are trying to get back at short-sellers of Byrne's firm.

Now you know why good people shrug.

Thank you Bill Gates, for the great stuff you made happen.

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I'm curious as to what the full explanations of his motives are. I saw him on TV giving the whole disgusting explanation about how with great wealth comes great responsibility and it his duty to "give back" to society blah blah blah. I hope for his sake that he does have ulterior motives related to the success of microsoft and his own personal enjoyment. As for the latter, I very much doubt a man who spent the last 30 years deeply involved in developing technology could be happy visiting village after run-down village in Africa and trying to fight poverty and disease by spending billions of wasted money.

Even worse is the gloating of all the altruists who are dancing in the streets for what they must see as one of the best things that could ever happen for their cause. Here we have one of the most successful self-made men in history, a paragon of capitalism, voluntarily renouncing his fortune and pledging to work full time in the service of the world's most primitive, anti-capitalist inhabitants. Yesterday there was a woman from a philanthropy magazine (apparently such things exist) on the news drooling about the potential for other successful people to follow Gates' lead.

I don't know what's worse, the fact that the government continues to punish successful businessmen or that those businessmen accept it and publicly repent for their sin of selfishness.

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Mr. Gates

A quick way to communicate

Has come from Mr. Gates,

And that's a fine height, to be sure.

But his altruistic creed---

Achievement must serve need---

Hugs a gross lowness impure.

There's no pride about his bearing,

He's a humble clone of caring;

He denies he has a right to his own dime.

He is on the selfless track

Of "give it up and give it back',

As though man's making profit were a crime.

For past triumphs I respect him,

For his treason I reject him;

I shall not shake his hand or say hello.

Though he once was so amazing

He's now passed below my praising,

And the vote of men of honor is a----"NO".

______________________________________

Brian Faulkner

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Here's a look at the successor of Bill Gates (Mr Ozzie): http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story...5-36375,00.html

"Complexity kills," Mr Ozzie wrote. "It sucks the life out of developers, it makes products difficult to plan, build and test, it introduces security challenges, and it causes end-user and administrator frustration."
Amen to that, fellow programmer.

P.S. "Ozzie" is a really funny name to me. :D

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Here's a look at the successor of Bill Gates (Mr Ozzie): http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story...5-36375,00.html Amen to that, fellow programmer.

Speaking of programming complexities. Have you looked at any MS products lately. What a load of crap. The software is so buggy and nothing ever seems to work properly. Oh yeah, has anyone seen longhorn lately? Oh thats right. They canned it and decided to create Vista in-house. Anyone know when Vista will come out? Oh thats right. It was postponed again. Has anyone seen or heard about Vista? Oh yeah, even MS admits it is very similar to OSX.

My last job was with a partner of MS and we used to joke how MS and innovation were contradictions. MS purchases products and then bundles them together to create a piece of software. What horrid and messy code.

And then there is the apple. So clean... Sigh.

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There's some kind of law that says that every discussion that involves MSFT must, at some point, veer to a discussion of how bad their products are. :)

I don't like all MSFT's products, but I do like enough of them. [When I say "MSFT's products", I include any that were previously owned by others.] Just wanted to say that much, in response, without taking this thread completely off-topic. Of course, if there's interest, we can split it to a separate topic.

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As for the latter, I very much doubt a man who spent the last 30 years deeply involved in developing technology could be happy visiting village after run-down village in Africa and trying to fight poverty and disease by spending billions of wasted money.

To my understanding of what Mr. Gates is doing, I think it is a prodigious understatement to describe what his foundation does as "spending billions of wasted money". Are you familiar with the announced Grand Challenges in Global Health? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a driving force behind this. You can read about these challenges here: http://www.gcgh.org/subcontent.aspx?SecID=408

Basically, the foundation has allocated a vast amount of funding for any credible research that can accomplish any of the fourteen stated goals, including:

* designing an olfacticide for mosquitos that would prevent them from sensing humans (and thus reducing the transmittal of many diseases like malaria) that would have minimial effects on harming pollinating insects.

* preparing vaccines that do not require refridgeration.

* genetically engineering more nutritious tubers for the developing world.

Note that this is funding research that will benefit impoverished areas along with many other facets of the global population. This is radically different from simply handing large sums of money to impoverished areas overrun by brutal dictatorships. Perhaps funding these initiatives is not a pure capitalistic move but surely these benefactions do not deserve our scorn.

What do you guys think?

Edited by DarkWaters

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What do you guys think?
What I think is... it would be really cool if Gates got bored after a few years of doing this malaria stuff... sold all his MSFT shares, and created a new start-up in some tech area, where he pulled together a young set of creators and rolled out a now-mostly corporate technology to the mass-market.

The idea of "a PC in every home" has been acheived and surpassed, almost becoming "a PC on every desk". Perhaps the next revoltuion will be "a Robot in every room"; or, more likely, it will be something more radical.

To the extent that businessmen deserve scorn, it is not related to the extent they do charity; rather, it is related to their inability or unwilliness to fight for their right to do or not do charity.

Edited by softwareNerd

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What I think is... it would be really cool if Gates got bored after a few years of doing this malaria stuff...

There is nothing wrong with someone dedicating his life (and resources) to helping find the cure for "this malaria stuff". As long as the person takes such a career in an intellectually active manner, he is as admirable as a software programmer. If you have followed Mr. Gates' approach to this field (philanthropy), you would agree that it is a great intellectual challenge for him, and one can even say that it is a properly selfish pursuit in that sense (ignoring his explicitly stated philosophy on the matter).

I think Mr. Gates is an example of what another thread here might call "a natural objectivist".

[by the way, i'm in Africa; if Mr. Gates succeeds, i will not have to ever fear catching malaria - so, perhaps i also have some "selfish" motives for defending him? :) ].

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As an African, you're rooting for him to do the malaria stuff. As a non-African techie I'll root for him to get bored and return to tech. As I said above, I don't "scorn" Gates for his charitable work, only to the extent that he thinks it's the "good" thing to do -- regardless of the sense of satisfaction it give him.

So, root for him; no problem. I suspect you'll win and I'll lose -- that's the power of philosophy.

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As an African, you're rooting for him to do the malaria stuff. As a non-African techie I'll root for him to get bored and return to tech. ...

and as an Objectivist?

i think that it is entirely possible Bill Gates is happier trying to become the hero who solved (or helped solve)the malaria problem (etc) than continuing in the software world. As an Objectivist, would you want him to sacrifice what gives him the most satisfaction at this stage for the sake of helping produce better products for YOU - as an american?

Edited by blackdiamond

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I don't want him to sacrifice... he's done enough of that already. I do not think people like Mother Teresa are basically selfish because they're just doing what they want to do.

Even if he thinks he can really get satisfaction from the eradication of malaria; I hope he changes his mind. To the extent that optional values are involved, it's no different from saying: if you like playing baseball, that's fine; I just hope you learn to play soccer and then we'll play together.

Already, I heard a commentator complain about the Gates foundation on TV, saying that they're so huge that they want to do charity their way! Gates is come-uppance will be when he realizes that he can't buy his way to salvation without selling a little more of his soul. Not wishing that on him, I simply hope he'll change his mind... I think he's a good guy.

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To the extent that optional values are involved, it's no different from saying: if you like playing baseball, that's fine; I just hope you learn to play soccer and then we'll play together.

Well, okay. If this is all you are saying, then it's fine: i have no problem with it. I just got the impression that someone (maybe not you) was presenting his philanthropy as something that is somewhat morally inferior to his software programming - and i thought there was some fallacy involved in coming to that conclusion without knowing the details of what motivates him or the approach he takes in this (new) career. I do not believe, for example, that he has anything close to Mother Theresa's sense of life or motivation in this.

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I just got the impression that someone (maybe not you) was presenting his philanthropy as something that is somewhat morally inferior to his software programming - and i thought there was some fallacy involved in coming to that conclusion without knowing the details of what motivates him or the approach he takes in this (new) career. I do not believe, for example, that he has anything close to Mother Theresa's sense of life or motivation in this.

I believe that to that extent his philanthropy is motived by altruism, it *is* morally inferior to programming. I'll grant you that Gates may practice philanthropy in a more effective, business-model manner than do other charities. But his charity practices don't change the fact that he explicitly announces that his motive and purpose is altruism. I'm going to take him at his word, and regret his decision.

You are hinting about Gates having a truly selfish purpose, so here is what a truly selfish Gates would do. He would decide that he wants to combat disease and poverty *for his own gain and pleasure*, not because "with great wealth comes great responsibility" and "it's time to give back to society". He would start not a charity, but a *business* with a profit motive. He would hire the best scientists he could find and demand they produce for their salaries. He would deal with others as traders, exchanging value for value, not giving away money with no expectation of any return. He would seek to eradicate malaria not to be a hero in others' eyes, but in his own.

I have a lot of respect for Bill Gates and appreciate the tremendous effect he's had on my life, not to mention his own. But he did all that through a business, not a charity. I would have no qualms with Gates switching to a different business if that's what he wanted to do. But he's not switching to another business - philanthropy, in essence, is the opposite of business.

Finally, the reason I said the money Gates gives through charity is "wasted" is because eradicating disease and poverty cannot be done in a primarily statist environment. Disease and poverty is wiped out by capitalism, and can only be combatted long term by capitalism. Gates can flood Africa with all the vaccines and food he wants, but without reform of the statist, corrupt governments (and philosophy) there, destitution will remain.

As an example, consider Gates' "Grand Challenge #9: Create a Nutrient-Rich Staple Plant Species". There are plenty of nutrient-rich sources of food in the world. Even if a new miracle plant were created, there still wouldn't be enough freedom for people to grow it. Free societies feed themselves quite well without any miracle plants; yet to believe Gates, this is a top priority and requirement to combat hunger. Why isn't freedom on the list?

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I believe that to that extent his philanthropy is motived by altruism, it *is* morally inferior to programming.

Well, Spano. You are very sure that his philanthropy is (explicitly) motivated by a bad philosophy, but what makes you so sure that his business career, on the other hand, is not equally motivated by a bad philosophy?

How can someone who (explicitly) believes in "giving back to society" have a great philosophy of "rational selfishness" in his business career? So how, in God's name, did you come to the conclusion that his business career is morally superior to his philanthropist career?

I still maintain, therefore, that someone is making conclusions (and moral judgments) on Mr. Gates' philanthropy based either on insufficient information or wrong information; a logical fallacy.

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Well, Spano. You are very sure that his philanthropy is (explicitly) motivated by a bad philosophy, but what makes you so sure that his business career, on the other hand, is not equally motivated by a bad philosophy?

I'm not saying that Gates was completely selfish with respect to his business, but I think that he mostly was. As evidence, I submit two numbers: his amassed wealth and Microsoft's market share. If Gates was significantly altruistic when it came to business, he would never have allowed either of these numbers to get as high as they have. Whatever his statements about philanthropy, Gate's actions speak louder than words in showing that when it came to Microsoft, he wanted to win and win big -- and he was not afraid of beating others in the process.

By the way, I'm making judgements based upon my context of knowledge. I judge that *if in fact* Gates is telling the truth about being altruistic and *if in fact* his success as Microsoft was motivated by his own desire to succeed for selfish reasons, *then* his switch from business leader to philanthropist is a moral regression.

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Here is a graphic done in the style of a "battle map", depicting the "Empire of MSFT" (tom many, the "Evil Empire of..."). It's done in humor. Still, it gives one a good summary of the scope of Gates's job. Indeed, it leaves out lot's of stuff that MSFT does.

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I'm not saying that Gates was completely selfish with respect to his business, but I think that he mostly was. As evidence, I submit two numbers: his amassed wealth and Microsoft's market share. If Gates was significantly altruistic when it came to business, he would never have allowed either of these numbers to get as high as they have.

Hmm. So, we can safely say that if we find someone who has made a lot of money from business, and leads a company that has a huge market share, that person is "MOSTLY" selfish (in his philosophy)? So, there are most likely *NO* altruists among the billionaires and the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies? This, Spano, is an interesting claim - i hope you can see it's absurdity.

By the way, I'm making judgements based upon my context of knowledge. I judge that *if in fact* Gates is telling the truth about being altruistic and *if in fact* his success as Microsoft was motivated by his own desire to succeed for selfish reasons, *then* his switch from business leader to philanthropist is a moral regression.

Yes, but the problem is that you have given NO evidence (except your interesting reasoning above) that he was in fact (or even *likely*) motivated by selfish reasons to succeed. How do you know his motivation for success was not just so he could make a lot of money to give away to charity (or philanthropy) - as a "moral duty"? Would such a person fail to exhibit the characteristics you described above, of competitiveness, etc?

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How do you know his motivation for success was not just so he could make a lot of money to give away to charity (or philanthropy) - as a "moral duty"?
Hmm! :) So, a bright college kid is wondering how to do his altruistic moral duty. He decides to quit Harvard and set up on his own. He builds a business in a brand new industry. Along the way, IBM gives him the opportunity he's looking for, by giving him a licence to the OS he sells to them. He makes a fortune re-selling it to others. Governments from around the world come after his company. He hangs in there, with a mixture of legal fight & political compromise. The internet boom takes his firm by surprise, but he pushes his company to change tack and get back the browser market. Java comes along, and is a real threat in the corporate-systems market. He moves from operations back to a technical role, hires some key new people and comes back with .NET which leap-frogs the Java guys in many markets.

It really isn't credible to believe that all along he was thinking: "I'm doing this for the poor, for the starving... just one more billion and I'll do what I really set out to do many decades ago."

Edited by softwareNerd

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So, there are most likely *NO* altruists among the billionaires and the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies?

How familiar are you with Ayn Rand's philosophy? I ask because you don't seem to understand what is meant by 'altruism'. Properly defined, this means the dedication of one's life to others, and the sacrifice of one's own values. The most consistent altruist, therefore, is the man who has no possessions other than the bare minimum needed to survive, and who gives all his values away to help others -- for example, a monk. Any billionaire, to the extent he *earns* money that he keeps, is acting against the injunctions of altruism.

The life of Bill Gates thus far is hardly altruistic. He has earned billions and failed to give it away. He has defeated countless "small guys" in business competition, people who Microsoft should have, under altruism, left without competition and "given a chance." He has charged hundreds of dollars for copies of his software, rather than giving it away for the public good. Apart from his charity work, Gates has certainly failed to consider the "needs" of millions of people.

Considering this, do you really consider Bill Gates (of old, at least) an altruist?

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Warren Buffett just announced he'd be giving some 70% of his Berkshire fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Valued now at some $37 billion, the total value of the gifts (which will be spread over several years) will ultimately depend on the value of the shares at the time of each gift.

Hmmmm...

-Q

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How familiar are you with Ayn Rand's philosophy?

Let's not go along that route. Can *you* defend *your* position?

I ask because you don't seem to understand what is meant by 'altruism'. Properly defined, this means the dedication of one's life to others, and the sacrifice of one's own values.

Properly defined, it is a philosophical system, not just a lifestyle.

The most consistent altruist, therefore, is the man who has no possessions other than the bare minimum needed to survive, and who gives all his values away to help others -- for example, a monk. Any billionaire, to the extent he *earns* money that he keeps, is acting against the injunctions of altruism.

We are not discussing whether he is ACTING against altruism, but whether he IS an altruist. This is important because the discussion is about Bill Gates' philanthropy in (moral) comparison with his business. You said you are against Bill Gates' *STATED* philosophy in his philanthropy, and you are not considering how he is ACTING. Your reason is that you believe this philosophy is inferior to his rationally selfish philosophy in business. But since you do not know what his STATED philosophy in business is, you have decided to derive this from his ACTIONS - like SoftwareNerd. But this is a fallacy, whether i am familiar with Ayn Rand's philosophy or not, because, just as it is in his philanthropy, it can also be in his business: a contradiction can exist between one's STATED (explicit) philosophy and his ACTIONS, no matter how you might want to dramatise his business history.

The life of Bill Gates thus far is hardly altruistic. He has earned billions and failed to give it away.

Failed? Or waited for the most appropriate time to do so? (Like Warren Buffet).

Considering this, do you really consider Bill Gates (of old, at least) an altruist?

No, i do not. and it is not because of my "considering" anything you have said. My position is simply that it is the same Bill Gates in philanthropy that it was in business: a man who works for his own happiness and enjoys the maximum application of his independent mind, even if his *EXPLICIT* philosophy might be wrong in both cases. i do not think that what he was doing in business shows an altruist, but neither do i think what he is doing in philanthropy shows an altruist. If, however, you decide to take only what he has SAID about philanthropy as his philosophy and ignore his actions as your basis of judging him, then *you* should be consistent enough to do the same concerning his business career: ignore his actions and take only what he has said.

Edited by blackdiamond

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I wish people would stop talking about the likes of Buffett and Gates as if they were great capitalist heroes. These people have more in common with James Taggart and Peter Keating (or at best, Hopton Stoddard...) than with Dagny or Roark.

Edited by Capitalism Forever

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