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Weasel words from Bill Gates

On the face of it, who could object to a company deciding to do more to help the world’s poor? Reuters has a story titled Gates calls for “creative capitalism” (which is a bit like saying ‘Gates calls for agriculture that creates food’).

Gates said the self-interest behind capitalism had driven multiple innovations but to harness it to the benefit of all required the system be refined. Greater focus on recognition for improving the lives of others could provide a spur for companies to focus more on making money out of providing valuable products at affordable prices to the world’s poor. He urged multinationals to pledge the services of their top people to the work.

Ah, I get it. White man speak with forked tongue… “but to harness it to the benefit of all required the system be refined”. Bill Gates is not in fact calling for voluntary anything, he is calling for The System to be ‘refined’, which means he wants to make capitalism less capitalist and more politically directed by our caring masters. Could the fact he hangs out with show biz types and politicos who are all solidly statist give us a clue to decoding his words here?

So is Billy Boy just another dissembling corporate stuffed shirt looking for more ‘feel good’ photo opportunities with such deep thinkers as Bono or that Guy Who Thinks He Invented the Internet?

36 comments to Weasel words from Bill Gates

  • My guess is he’s been playing too much Bridge with Warren Buffet lately.

  • Jim

    A little too much talking-heads type political correctness, methinks. “The System” (aka “THEY”) will rebalance our industries, take the crass out of lucre, rein-in those greedy money-grubbers, give the profit to the deserving poor and make the consumer-driven economy “fair” for “all”. Socialism-speak – translation; hide your wallet because dollars to stickpins, he ain’t planning to do this with HIS money.

    Seems funny coming from Gates, who whilst at the helm of MicroSlop gave corporate raiders everywhere a real bad name.

    But then “fair” is in the eye of the beholder; I note Billary became really interested in regulating “fair content” on the internet when she began to suffer her own (continuing, I’m happy to say) rough ride.

  • Eamon Brennan

    He doesn’t mention state-regulation and I am not so sure that’s what he’s talking about.

    It’s sounds more like he’s getting interested in the so-called fortune at the bottom of the pyramid.

  • Brian

    It’s the standard ‘Pull Up The Ladder I’m All Right’.

    Capitalism creates rich people. People who are rich don’t want there to be any more rich people as this creates crowds in the places only rich people can afford.

  • Paul Marks

    I am told that a simple way to decide which way to vote in a referendum in Washington State is to find out which side Bill Gates is giving money to – and then vote the other way.

    Some people still have this semi Marxist notion that very rich people must favour lower taxes and government spending and less regulations.

    This is simply not so – and it is not just the credit bubble financial elite (such as so many people connected with G.S. and some other Wall Street firms). There is Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Marc Cuban (of Texas), and so many of the Californian dot.com and entertainment industry people……. and so on and so on.

    If a man makes a lot of money this tell you that he has made a lot of money – it tells you nothing else about him.

    There is no such thing as “the ideology of the capitalist class” or whatever.

  • He doesn’t mention state-regulation and I am not so sure that’s what he’s talking about.

    That is exactly why I describe this as ‘weasel words’ because as soon as I see “the system be refined”, what he says gives way quite clearly to what he means.

    There is nothing in ‘The System’ right now to stop corporations helping whoever they please, so between that and the who’s who of Big State Booster Buddies in Bill’s Rolodex (which I am sure he uses when Windows crashes), the inference is pretty obvious to me.

  • Eamon Brennan

    I am aware that is “clear” to you. Whether or not it’s the case is another matter.

    Gates talks about the system being refined. Thats essentially what the system does all the time internally anyway. I am guessing that he means refinement in a specific direction, i.e. establishing the kind of product development and marketing techniques that can exploit the enormous markets that remain very much untouched within the world’s poorest demographics.

    You say. “There is nothing in ‘The System’ right now to stop corporations helping whoever they please”.

    This is both true and untrue. The system as it exists in it’s present form cannot exploit those markets and therefore cannot help anyone therein. However, the system is inherently capable of refining itself until it can do so. It’s all a matter of focus.

    When gates speaks of refinement, it is entirely possible that he is speaking to his peers and no-one else.

  • Alice

    Bill Gates was very, very, very, very lucky. Look at the history of Microsoft, and it is obvious that he benefitted repeatedly from others’ mistakes — IBM & Apple, among others.

    In a capitalist system, that is OK. But if must leave the successful capitalist (Gates, in this case) with a deep-seated lack of comfort in his own worthiness. But for the Grace of God, Gates could have been the guy who sold DOS for a trifling $50k (to Microsoft). This sense of having been uncommonly lucky may leave people like Gates susceptible to the blandishments of the demonstable historical failure of fascism/socialism.

    Same explanation probably underlies the political leanings of the entertainment class. All those singers and actors realize that there are many others out there bussing tables who are at least as talented as the “stars”, but didn’t get the breaks. The unfairness simply screams — not so much as to make the “stars” want to give up the Lear jet, but enough that they would like to see the little people taxed & regulated in the name of “fairness”.

    Hey, Bill! If there is a business opportunity in serving the underserved, go seize the opportunity. Prove that you were not just a very lucky geek.

  • When gates speaks of refinement, it is entirely possible that he is speaking to his peers and no-one else.

    That’s your view, but not mine. I think you are a great deal too optimistic. Also I would guess he sees his ‘peers’ as including the likes of Al Gore. Take a look at who all the people are in his cringe inducing ‘goodbye’ video and then tell me he is not thinking about more state based ‘refinements’.

  • Eamon Brennan

    Then we will have to agree to differ.

    Optomist I may be, but the search for ways to exploit new markets via advances in technology is a hall mark of capitalism and Gate’s track record is very good in this respect.

    Gruesome video I admit, but it lends no weight to your assumptions. Gore may be one of his friends, but Bill Gates has very few peers.

  • permanentexpat

    A friend of Alan Jay Lerner’s father said to him (Lerner Sr)
    “My word, your boy Alan has been so lucky!”
    “Indeed he has,” replied Lerner Sr,”and the strange thing is that the harder he works, the luckier he gets.”

    Nothing makes folk seethe more than the success of others.

  • Gore, Clooney, Bono… sorry but it is like a who’s who of The Bad Guys. Looking at the context within which a person operates is is very useful when decoding a person’s remarks. If Barry Goldwater had used the same words I would interpret ‘refinements’ to mean finding ways to get the state out of the way to let capitalism work. Not so with Gates.

  • Brad

    By and large the “world’s poor” exist in areas ruled by despots. How is the system to be refined by capitalists? Create a fund to kill despots – then invest and allow the poor masses to work constructively in a system of division of labor? If people are poor, and it’s cause is an absence of capitalism, it is absent because thugs rule. I’m hard pressed to find how a refinement of “market forces” is going to do a thing about removing tyrants from their compounds.

  • Eamon Brennan

    The only problem with that is you have to completely ignore Gate’s behaviour over the last 25 years in order to shoehorn his words into your preconceptions.

    Basically Gates has been “refining the system” all his working life.

  • veryretired

    Unfortunate, to say the least, but also very predictable.

  • renminbi

    Halt the harm in the world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm, but the harm doesn’t interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.


  • renminbi

    My bad

    ” Half…

  • Lee Moore

    Greater focus on recognition for improving the lives of others could provide a spur for companies to focus more on making money out of providing valuable products at affordable prices to the world’s poor.

    Interestingly, this very point was addressed some time ago by a rather deeper thinker than Bill Gates, who reached a different conclusion :

    He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.

    I wonder if anyone will still be quoting Bill Gates in twenty years, never mind two hundred.

  • Renminbi,

    What is the context of the Eliot Quote? I see it attributed to him all over the Net (twice by you), but can’t find it in the first 10 google hits….

    Will contribute many Renminbi to the charity of your choice if you can help me track it down.

  • renminbi

    T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party, (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), p. 111.
    This is from Thomas Sowell’s favorite quotations on Chicagoboyz.net/.Right cllick his photo. Sorry for using it twice,but it is too good to pass up when appropriate.

  • R. Richard Schweitzer

    Here is commentary (edited) to the WSJ article on the same topic. I hope it is not too flatulent verbally:

    This is about the “idea” and not about its source or his persona.

    It does seem, basically, that the “idea” is aimed at finding ways to influence human motivations; not at changing the functions of what is labeled “capitalism.”

    What we see as “Capitalism” is not at all an “ism” in juxtposition to socialism, marxism, etc. It is simply a system of distribution of service for service (Bastiat). That system is based on individual choices. The ability or capacity to chose is affected by a wide variety of factors; genetic, physical, mental, geographic political and chronological that probably cannot be brought within a single comparative format.

    Along with Gates (and Peter Bauer), we are looking at what we perceive as deficiences in human interactions, with one another and with their surroundings; principally limitations on the senses of obligations or on the force of those senses in those interactions (particularly of an “economic” nature).

    Somewhere its has been cited over the gates of a great city [New Delhi?]: “Democracy does not descend to a people. A people rise to Democracy.” We should consider whether people must also rise to achieve a sytem of choice, to enlarge their capacities by services to others that others need or want, rather than be provided with “benefits” from alien culture, however labeled.

    The expansion of the usefulness of one’s services beyond self, family, clan, tribe or territory to the point that the service which returns cannot be identified with or traced to one’s own acts, has been essential to human progress in interactions and moral development.

    While expanding “capitalism” as a system for exchanging services can be vital to the effective progress sought, it will be dependent on the fomentation and evolution of “useful” services to be exchanged. Those factors, not the system called “capitalism” need to be made “creative.”

    In contra, we can look today at much that represses the generation of useful services from much of the population; that there is little will or desire to deal with any susbtantial change in these circumstances.

    With that, Hamlet told Horatio to shut up!

  • R. Richard Schweitzer

    I guess of one is a slow typist one gets spambotted – right?

  • The only problem with that is you have to completely ignore Gate’s behaviour over the last 25 years in order to shoehorn his words into your preconceptions.

    Whatever that means. Enlighten me as to his laissez faire free market credentials then as I am obviously being unfair to him.

  • Eamon Brennan

    Maybe you are being unfair. Gates made his fortune by having the nous to realise where the money lay (software) and by having the business sense to buy and sell what people wanted.

    IBM wanted and OS and Bill didn’t have one. So he bought one for a fraction of what it was worth and sold it on.

    Since then Microsoft has used its system software advantage in order to enhance its application software development.

    Microsoft are where they are (top of the heap) by straight free-market means. Those are his credentials. And given his trials with the US and EU over Internet Explorer (basically being punished for threatening to monopolise internet commerce) I really doubt he has any great love for excessive govt intervention in business.

    Gates is not alone in thinking that capitalism can adjust to help the poor. Do me a favour, google C.K. Prahalad and then reread what Gates actually said. Then, please let me know if you still don’t think that his words can’t be interpreted differently.


  • Do me a favour, google C.K. Prahalad and then reread what Gates actually said

    I did and have no idea what you have in mind. Can you give me a link to the bit you think is germane?

  • Nick M

    There was an enormous slice of luck for Mr Gates. He was in the right place at the right time with the right product. He had the foresight to see it but you can’t ignore the luck.

  • Lee Moore

    Luck’s role in a free society (inc capitalism / a market economy) etc should not be understated. On average, the hard working, entrepreneurial, clever, diligent and businesslike will succeed more often than the dim, disorganised and idle, but it is only on average. All those success enhancing qualities are to do with what’s called “making your own luck.” But the merely lucky do pretty well too. It is no part of any claims in capitalism’s favour that the successful always and necessarily “deserve” their success. Only that, on average, leaving people be will generate more success all round. You have to be a socialist to want to adjust results for unequally distributed luck.

  • CountingCats

    Sorry, but the only significant ‘luck’ I can think of re Bill Gates and Microsoft was IBM and Digital Research being unable to come to a deal over CP/M-86. Everything else, or all the significant milestones anyway, were as a result of having the nous to spot an opportunity otherwise open to others, and to put in the hard graft needed to exploit it. Of course, once the company reached a critical mass, sheer marketing muscle gave it a considerable advantage, but luck? Nah. You don’t generate this sort of success via luck.

  • Oh I agree! If there are grounds to be critical of Gates, his ability as a businessman ain’t one of them! He may not have made the waves but he knew how to surf them.

  • David Kuwanoe

    Hm… In his old age, has he gone and found the leftist “religion” and is trying to buy his way into Lib Heaven? (With other people’s money, of course.)

    Hypocrisy of the highest order. Makes me want to run out and buy a Mac.

  • Nick E

    I worry that we’ve just seen Bill have his Jim Taggart Moment.

  • Paul Marks

    “You have been ignoring his [Bill Gates’] behaviour over the last 25 years”.

    Not at all Dr Butler.

    Mr Gates has been going round saying things like “Republicans at promoting production, but the Democrats and good because they stress distribution” for at least 25 years.

    “Just words”.

    No, Mr Gates has been giving money to leftist political campaigns for years.

    He may not be as bad as George Soros, Peter Lewis, Marc Cuban, the Goldman Sachs and other financial crowd in New York, or the .com and entertainment industry crowd in California.

    But like his friend Warren Buffett, Bill Gates is no good.

    Unlike the father of W.B., Mr Gates’ father is no good either.

  • Paul Marks

    That should be “the Republicans are good at promoting production, but the Democrats are good because they understand distribution”.

    No link – I heard Mr Gates say it on television (years ago).

  • Mr. Gates mentioned Julian Simon. That puts him on the side of Good (at least a little bit).

  • Paul Marks

    Bill Clinton (or his speechwriters) had a habit of mentioning the names of good guys in his speeches – trangulation.

    I can not stand these “we must transcend political differences” types.

    There are no short cuts, and there are no “third ways”.

    If you want Africans to be “creative” and to get better off – then allow them property rights.

    Full civil society.

    Secure possession AND civil use.

    As for “public services” (the Brown-Bush mantra) the cost of them will actually retard progress.

    “But they need more educated people”.

    People with bits of paper (“qualifications”) which they think entitles them to government jobs (rather than working as farmers or market traders or manufacturers).

    Actually many African nations have far too many such people already.

    “But if we give them lots of computers….”

    Oh f….

    You can guess the rest.

  • nick g.

    After Watergate, billygate! I think he just wants us to give our old computers to the poor, who will then need to buy the latest version of Windows to get ahead. By getting us to do good, he ends up doing very well indeed!!!