The Economist: Bill Gates, Philanthropy, and the Public Good

The Economist recently had an interesting piece on Bill Gates, who is stepping down from his active role at Microsoft, in order to pursue his philanthropic interests: The meaning of Bill Gates

Of particular interest is the final paragraph, which includes an interesting point about philanthropy. The author(s) argue that, whatever good Gates does with the massive fortune he amassed through his business activities, that good is morally independent of the good he has already done as a business-person:

Whatever the corporate-social-responsibility gurus say, business is a force for good in itself: its most useful contribution to society is making profits and products. Philanthropy no more canonises the good businessman than it exculpates the bad. In spite of his flaws, Mr Gates is one of the good kind.

You don’t have to be much of a Gates fan to agree. Indeed, no matter what philanthropic endeavours Gates chooses to focus on over the coming years, it’s hard to imagine him ever having as much impact as a philanthropist as he did as head of Microsoft. Of course, Gates is not a man to be underestimated; let’s hope he’s as clever at meeting the challenges of philanthropy as he’s been at putting computers into offices and households.

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