Monday, August 11, 2008


Bill Gates has discovered a newfound passion, enriching the world poor through Creative Capitalism. Loosely translated, if you follow where he is placing capital, Gate’s definition of Creative Capitalism is the financing of the entrepreneurial spirit in corners of the globe that garnered little attention from the rest of the world’s population. There are other intentions to this sweeping endeavor, nevertheless it may be an indication that somewhere along his path Bill Gates has discovered new and compelling insight and wisdom. It has now been a generation since the days when visionary Gary Kildall claimed that his CP/M operating system had formed the basis of IBM’s first PC operating system (PC-DOS / MS-DOS), and technological history took a major turn.

In January of this year, the Gates foundation announced a $47 million grant to TechnoServe, principally financing a coffee growing project in Tanzania that will strengthen and organize its farmers. TechnoServe promotes the expansion of business opportunities at the grassroots level in numerous African and Latin American countries, and has been around since the late sixties. This commendable effort deserves all the funding it can get, and is evidently in line with Gates’ objective of earning a return on investment while helping people who have been left out of the economic loop.

The challenge is daunting. Such is human nature that individuals will do the self-serving thing eighty percent of the time. Capitalism matches human nature rather well, even to its self-serving first tendencies. Being an executive in a corporation provides further incentive and rationalization for implementing actions that are selfish and egocentric. The profit motive is all that need be quoted for rationalization, and doing the right thing right goes out the window. Microsoft history provides ample examples of such behavior, even to the extent of having provoked government regulatory attention. The market system nevertheless provides a vast platform onto which the new incarnation of Bill Gates can promote his version of benevolence.

While Gates has faith in technological advances to heal the pain of world poverty, the long-term answer really lies in shifting human consciousness, and on the capitalist front, broadly affecting behavior at the corporate level. As he continues to promote progress, Bill Gates should adjust his challenge to include such paradigm shift in consciousness over the longer time horizon. Gates long ago proved he was a master at effective PR. There is no reason why altruism cannot also be part and parcel of the corporate self-interest, gradually transplanting its darker elements of exploitation, or at the very least encouraging doing the right thing right.

Doing the right thing right isn’t always more difficult. It is very often, however, less expedient, and most often less profitable. The necessary factor is that of affecting perception at the top of the corporate food chain. Gates understands that process well. We should all wish him the best in such endeavor.


  1. Thanks for your comment and link to

    Gates Keepers

  2. I'd like to see Gates finance some entrepeneur offering service on Gate's software products - Microsoft is the only software company I've ever dealt with that does not offer any service on its products that isn't outrageously priced [approx 10 CDN bucks/minute]. I've been lucky to find techs at other companies such as Dell willing and able to pick up the slack by assisting me on issues that really weren't their problem - in the interests of customer good-will. Bill Gates got rich by letting the consumer of his products go hang once they'd paid for the product. He's as rich as he is because he was and is an astoundingly greedy man. Now he wants to be remembered as being a philanthropist. And Bush wants to be remembered as an advocate for human rights based solely on his belated slap on the wrist to China just before his visit there. Well they can both drop dead, as far as I'm concerned.

  3. There's no doubt that Gates dedicating his time, money, and attention to fighting poverty is a great thing. I'm not sure how anyone can argue otherwise.

    I, for one, do not want him to drop dead. His money might be passed to someone less charitable.

    As easy as it is to damn corporations and the tycoons they produce, they have the largest capacity to help the world's poor. We shouldn't write them off.

  4. We're exploring social entreprenurial ventures in class this week and this post was a great resource. Thank you for your informative and concise writing.

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