The one where I defend Bill Gates

I believe it was Spike Milligan who once said “money can’t buy friends, but you can get a better class of enemy.” He wasn’t accounting for envy.

Until the British general election in May, which saw off a government that seemed to be trying to combine all the worst aspects of incompetent socialism with the nastier instincts of fascism (racialist immigration policies, ever more puritanical and police-intrusive legislation), the British left had a nasty, but identifiable purpose.

Now it has none.

This article in the Guardian is the sort of dog vomit one would expect to see in an Ayn Rand parody of a collectivist newsrag.

Bill Gates is big enough and ugly enough to take care of himself (and I hasten to add, has never offered me any inducements to speak his mind). I’m writing this on an old Mac because I don’t trust the first billion copies of Windows 7 to be free of bugs.

(Would a free copy of Vista be a bribe or a threat, I wonder? Pleease, nooo! I’ll say what you want, but don’t put Vista on my poor laptop, noooo!)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also has its issues for me: it’s rather more politically correct than I would like it (but hey, it’s up to me to make $30 billion and decide how I spend it, right?), and with size and leverage, comes the power to make big mistakes, rather than smaller ones.

Specifically, in a region of an African country where the Gates Foundation chooses to back a malaria project, this will tend to dwarf existing efforts to, say, distribute a vaccine for schistosomiasis (the reason I won’t take my shoes or socks off in some parts of Egypt). The concern is that in the short term, the effect will be to incite most of the health workers to sign up for Gates’ campaign.

In the first place, it seems to me that Andy Beckett, the Guardian columnist, knows very little about the Gates Foundation. Even the Guardian has nearly 250 mentions going back to 2000 about the charity, which doesn’t sit with this comment: “Is this the future of giving,” before noting several paragraphs later that “the organisation has given grants since it was founded in 1994.”

Still, if the Guardian were a mere 16 years behind history that wouldn’t be too bad.

We’re then treated to this condescending drivel:

Instead, visitors must take a side road, stop at a separate gatehouse, also unmarked, and introduce themselves to a security guard, of the eerily polite and low-key kind employed by ex-heads of state and the extremely rich.

No, he’s just a normal American security guard, which means he’s about 10 times as polite as any British journalist and doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder.

Mr Beckett then treats us to his profound ignorance of the media, delivering this gem:

There are also cuttings about the foundation’s work from the Economist and the Wall Street Journal, not publications you might have previously associated with a big interest in global disease and poverty.

I mentioned the 250 mentions of the Gates Foundation in the Guardian? Well the Economist (a weekly publication, so logically having rather fewer articles) has reported on the charity about 540 times and the Wall Street Journal has mentioned it over 310 times. BTW, this took me all of two minutes to find out, but then, I don’t fact-check for the Guardian (life’s too short).

After what seems a reluctance to admit that the foundation claims to have “delivered vaccines to more than 250 million children in poor countries and prevented more than an estimated five million deaths,” we get this:

It is hard to see this explosion of activity as a wholly bad thing.

The “(but let’s give it a try)” seems begging to be said out loud. So here it comes:

But it does have political implications. “It’s kind of [creating] a post-UN world,” says someone close to the Gates foundation. “People have gotten interested in fast results.” The UN, he says, is too slow and bureaucratic – you could say democratic – to achieve them. Critics of the new, more entrepreneurial aid industry such as the Dutch journalist Linda Polman, in her recent book War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times, see empire-building and wasteful competition as well as worthwhile altruism.

Last time I checked, the Gates Foundation hadn’t operated child sex rackets in Africa, or allowed a former Secretary-General’s son to launder money from a program that kept Saddam Hussein in power, or picked the government of Iran to chair its women’s rights commission. No problem there.

Dotted around the article are references to Bill Gates’ parents (who inexplicably, are said to have been wealthy AND opposed to apartheid, no doubt a bit much for Me Beckett to grasp), to “philanthrocapitalism,” the heresy (to the Guardian) of trying to achieve financially sustainable charity.

The article ends with an unintentionally amusing touch:

…he abruptly gets up from the meeting table, turns away from me without a goodbye handshake, and goes back to his desk and computer. At the Gates foundation, they are very keen that meetings do not overrun. There is much work to be done.

Well, that’s one explanation. I prefer the one where a journalist came across as a prat so his interviewee decided to stop wasting his time, and out of pique, the journalist penned his article.

2 Responses to “The one where I defend Bill Gates”

  1. Paul Marks Says:

    I do not like Bill Gates. I do not like the man’s politics (or those of his father) or his personality (although what I know of that is second hand). And those people I know who know about computers (I know nothing of computers) do not even like his products. Say what you like about Rockefeller, Frick and Carnegie at least their CUSTOMERS loved them (what customer of MicroSoft loves it?)

    However, what Bill Gates is doing for poor people is good – and he deserves praise WITHOUT RESERVATIONS for his charity. There is no zero sum game (support for one thing does not undermine support for other things) and there is no down side – period.

  2. tomgrey Says:

    Actually, Gates’ charity DOES have a downside–for the UN. Whose own corrupt bureaucratic ‘aid’ policies primarily direct money to its nepotistic/ elitist with a PR patina of help for the poor.

    Which never seems to be enough to get any of them out of poverty — unless it’s the few chosen by the UN or corrupt local gov’t to join the corruption.

    Good for Gates — better than the UN! Which is too faint praise.

    I wish that Gates was more interested in creating sustainable jobs in poor countries, like thru investing in profit oriented companies.

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