Bill Gates’s philanthropic giving is a racket


Bill and Melinda Gates. PHOTO/Wikimedia Commons

Bill Gates recently resigned from the board of Microsoft to focus full time on philanthropy. It’s a perfect time to remember: billionaire-funded philanthropy is a public-relations scam.

Bill Gates recently announced he’s stepping down from the board of Microsoft, the trillion-dollar software colossus he cofounded, to “dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities including global health and development, education, and my increasing engagement in tackling climate change.” The national papers happily reported the news: “In his post-Microsoft career, Mr. Gates has become better known for his work in fighting infectious diseases and climate change. [In February], the Gates Foundation said it would commit an additional $100 million to fight the coronavirus,” the New York Times reported.

This was typical of the affectionate press treatment of Gates, who’s now considered one of the better billionaires, relative to Trump or the Koch brothers. This is mainly due to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable entity with billions in its endowment used for fighting AIDS, accelerating economic development, and many other worthy causes.

But Bill Gates and his foundation are the perfect picture of why this model of billionaire philanthropy is so flawed. Gates’s foundation was originally cooked up as a feel-good gloss to cover up his shredded reputation during Microsoft’s antitrust trial, putting him in the long tradition of obscenely rich people using the occasional generous gift to try justifying their enormous wealth and power.

Broken Windows

It’s worth remembering where Gates’s money came from. In 1981, Microsoft bought the rights to a version of an early operating system (“DOS”), the basic software running on a computer that makes it operable and can support applications. They modified it and sold it to IBM for its incredibly successful personal computers, leading to stupendous growth at Microsoft as IBM and the many clone PC-makers wanted the same OS in order to attract more software developers, whose applications made the PC useful.

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