Bill Gates Issues Call For Kinder Capitalism

I almost didn’t post this, but… does anyone find it ironic that one of the richest people in the world, one who amassed his fortune through crushing competition (often using obviously illegal tactics), leveraging monopolies and being quite often just generally anti competition and flat out predatory is now calling for kinder capitalism. Don’t get me wrong, I am whole heartily for helping others. If you’re doing well for yourself, I highly recommend you visit 10over100. I’m a huge proponent of Kiva and other local organizations. This world clearly needs change. This, however, just seems a bit hypocritical. We’re talking about someone who derided CEO’s for having “finite greed”. To quote Adam Smith, who argued against monopolies, is almost comical.

As Bill ages, I’d guess he’s reflecting on his life and the impact he’s had on the world. What he’s done and how he’s done it. He’s worried about his legacy, his spot in history. This seems quite common, if you think about it, but at least the robber barons of yesteryear (think Carnegie, Rockefeller, etc.) poured their ill gotten gains into infrastructure that could make a long lasting difference. The hospitals, research centers, universities, libraries and other centers they built are still paying huge dividends to mankind today. Hopefully what Mr. Gates does will do the same, but it doesn’t seem like it’s infrastructure he’s interested in.

In the end, on one hand I certainly commend him. He looks to have the best interest of human kind at heart. Regardless of how he obtained the money, that’s a great thing. Hopefully the investments he makes will benefit the world for lifetimes to come. Tying aid to the use of Windows, which Microsoft recently did, most certainly does not qualify. When the history books of tomorrow are written, how will we look back on William Gates? That remains to be seen.

I should note that I consider commercial Open Source a sort of “kinder capitalism”. It almost inherently protects against monopolies and therefore should provide a more even distribution of wealth, it avoids lock-in, provides better value for the consumer and by nature almost guarantees that a company focus on what the client wants and not how to artificially inflate the value of 0’s and 1’s. Proprietary software has its place and will have a place for a long time to come, but Open Source is surely kinder and gentler. Of course, I may be a bit bias ;)

–jeremy

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