Friday, June 29, 2007

Quote of the Day: Tragedy of Bill Gates' Charity

Traditional philanthropy is collective, tribal, even. The donor feels noble; paternalism reigns; poverty is perpetuated. Extending the institutons of economic liberty -- even to the limited degree that this has occurred in China and India -- has done more good than would have been achieved had Mr.Gates liquidated Microsoft and shipped all that money to Africa.

The tragedy of Gates-style philanthropy is less that it will do little good but, rather, that he has abandoned the entrepreneurial skills used so creatively in his truly significant wealth-creation work at Microsoft. Had he employed similar skills in dealing with the problems of Africa, he would not simply replicate the tried and failed policies of traditional paternalistic aid. Rather, he would be examining the barriers -- political, cultural, tribal -- that block entrepreneurial activity throughout Africa and explore ways to remove them. Could we, for instance, out-compete the oligarchs and tyrants by creating prizes that would bypass the bureaucracy and achieve success in health- and wealth-creation, in reducing corruption?

~Fred L. Smith, President of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Letter-to-the-Editor in today's WSJ


At 7/02/2007 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't really fair.

Gates is doing things very differently than the typical "dumping aid into the hands of tyrants" model, but instead targetting specific solvable issues (like vaccines & HIV research).

Now I do think that Gates would do better funding a global initiative to help change cultural and governmental opposition to economic freedom, but it is his money...

On the other hand, I disagree with the concept that "routing around" governments that are economically unfree achieves very much. Things like micro-credit are a good idea, but financial sector reform and respect for property rights is far more effective in reducing poverty.


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