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Gates Foundation Revokes Pledge to Review Portfolio

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the no-pledge-no-problem dept.

Microsoft 236

NewsCloud writes "After the LA Times reported that the Gates Foundation often invests in companies hurting the very communities Bill and Melinda want to help, the Seattle Times reported the foundation planned 'a systematic review of its investments to determine whether it should pull its money out of companies that are doing harm to society'. Shortly after that interview, the Gates Foundation took down their public statement on this and replaced it with a significantly altered version which seems to say that investing responsibly would just be too complex for them and that they need to focus on their core mission: 'There are dozens of factors that could be considered, almost all of which are outside the foundation's areas of expertise. The issues involved are quite complex...Which social and political issues should be on the list? ... Many of the companies mentioned in the Los Angeles Times articles, such as Ford, Kraft, Fannie Mae, Nestle, and General Electric, do a lot of work that some people like, as well as work that some people do not like. Some activities might even be viewed positively by some people and negatively by others.'"

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Bill Gates (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17577232)

is the most evil person ever.

Who said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17577526)

that Republicans have a monopoly on hyperbolic & violent rhetoric?

Watch my left hand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17577246)

...while my right hand takes your wallet.

Re:Watch my left hand... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578122)

"say that investing responsibly would just be too complex for them and that they need to focus on their core mission"

I love paraphrasing, it doesn't reek of bias or anything...

Re:Watch my left hand... (1)

Da_Weasel (458921) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578930)

Investing responsibly would just be too complex for them.
paraphrasing doesn't hold a candle to mis-quoting. It's a lot more fun too, because it's in their own words...

Re:Watch my left hand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17579064)

Quote:
"Jogging is what I really love. Big hairy donkey balls are nasty!"

Misquote:
"...I really love. Big hairy donkey balls..."

Yups...misquotes rock!

SRI (5, Insightful)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577262)

Socially responsible investing is essentially impossible. Public companies are almost always too large and complex to boil down into a single binary good/evil decision matrix, and if one could, if investing in the evil company (for little direct benefit to the company by the way) you could do 25% more really good things (say 25% fewer malria cases or more clean drinking water in Africa, the moral calculus becomes quite complicated.

Re:SRI (3, Funny)

Life2Short (593815) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577374)

Yeah, I hear what you're saying, but come on, that 20% share of Acme Land Mines...

Re:SRI (4, Funny)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577656)

> Yeah, I hear what you're saying, but come on, that 20% share of Acme Land Mines.

Well, most of happens to that coyote is his own damn fault.

Chris Mattern

Re:SRI (1)

asliarun (636603) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578274)

On top of it, they decide to hedge their investment by buying 10% of FootLocker.

Re:SRI (4, Insightful)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577394)

Exactly. And as I said in the prior posts, if the Gates foundation isn't making money off of the evil corporations, someone will. At least with the Gates foundation, the money is going to treat disease, bring clean and renewable drinking sources, textbooks, etc, whereas if someone else, say, Mr. Trump were to invest, the money would go toward a useless condo tower or crappy TV show.

It would be a different story if the foundation was using their money as investment capital to evil startup companies or backing radical governments. But they aren't.

Re:SRI (4, Insightful)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577660)

That's BS. Companies watch their stock, and if more people are willing to buy it it goes up. Socially responsible investment means there is more demand and value for the stocks in the market which are responsible, and less for the companies which aren't. Passive and blind investment means that you are actively assisting in the misanthropic things going on.

People trying to do good things can make money too, why not invest in them? It will end up helping them out, just a little, and you won't profit from destruction. I am amused by the idea that big companies are just too stupid to see everything they are doing, but it's partially an incentives thing - if you are going to lose a huge investor and the stock takes a 5 point hit because some nimwit dumped oil in a pond, you're more likely to fire him and prosecute to make an example.

Re:SRI (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578366)

That's BS. Companies watch their stock, and if more people are willing to buy it it goes up.

While that's true, it's also about as absurdly far as you can reduce the equation. People might be willing to buy the stock of a company because it's profitable, not caring why it's profitable. Maybe because even though that company is doing eveil things, people still want their products. Investment decisions are a lot colder and calculating in the real world.

Socially responsible investment means there is more demand and value for the stocks in the market which are responsible, and less for the companies which aren't.

That has always been the belief -- "if I invest in a responsible company, this will increase the demand for products from responsible companies, and I'll make money". While I applaud it as a noble sentiment (and one I generally try to endorse), it might be a bit naive to think that most people are motivated by ethical corporate behaviour.

Passive and blind investment means that you are actively assisting in the misanthropic things going on.

People might not just be passively/blindly investing in such companies. They may be doing it because of solid financials -- Acme Cocaine has had 25% revenue growth for each of the last 20 years, they have no liabilities, and huge cash reserves. Sometimes, it's a savvy investor who is deciding to buy such things.

As I pointed out elsewhere in this thread, there are classes of investments called "Sin Funds" -- you pick companies which make money off people's vices, and make more in the long run than ethical funds have achieved yet. A lot of people are perfectly willing to say "damn the misanthropy, give me some cash!!", so they couldn't care less about the fallout of it.

Cheers

Re:SRI (1)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578878)

I stopped believing in the market being rational years ago. Approximately 1999, to be exact. All I've got left is my naivete and knowledge of basic economics; give people money and they will continue doing what they are doing, don't give them money and they may try to impress you.

Re:SRI (1)

Roadmaster (96317) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577682)

if someone else, say, Mr. Trump were to invest, the money would go toward a useless condo tower or crappy TV show.
Hold it there mister! don't you dare mess with The Donald!! just because he's worth about 10% of Bill Gates' fortune it doesn't mean he's a bad investor!

Re:SRI (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577698)

And as I said in the prior posts, if the Gates foundation isn't making money off of the evil corporations, someone will.

And note that "evil", as defined in the original article, includes such things as providing high-paying jobs that allow workers to patronize prostitutes, and thereby contributing to teenage pregnancy.

There's arguably a sane point to be made there, but the article takes it to a ludicrous extreme.

Re:SRI (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577850)

whereas if someone else, say, Mr. Trump were to invest, the money would go toward a useless condo tower

Mr. Trump may be building for the rich, but he's keeping thousands of contractors busy for many years. In the suburbs of NYC his investments have drastically improved the local economy and raised the values of lower income housing. And that's before he's even built anything.

I don't like Donald Trump, but just as with some of the companies the Gates foundation invests in, there are positives.

Re:SRI (0, Troll)

david.given (6740) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578066)

if the Gates foundation isn't making money off of the evil corporations, someone will.

Perhaps we should legalise the murder of people over 65. After all, they're about to die soon anyway, so what's the harm?

Libertarian squared? (4, Insightful)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578188)

First the diehard lib says (btw, I'm a diehard lib) "if a company is harming society, the market will eventually shun that company and it will have to change its ways". Then, when someone suggests a shunning an evil company it's "look, if I don't make money of this, someone will..."

Just seems like that invisible hand keeps getting more and more invisible..

Re:Libertarian squared? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17579084)

FYI, the free market solution requires pure voluntary association, which is impossible under today's overly complex, ambiguous, exploitable web of law. The very essence and key principle of free trade -- voluntary choice on the part of all parties involved in a transaction -- is poisoned to some extent in every transaction (when it's not outright eliminated) in today's "market". That invisible hand is just about destroyed by now; maybe that's why you don't see it.

Re:SRI (1)

mshih (1018706) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579152)

That's just crap. If the companies involved were not doing harmful things to people or enviroment, then there would not be a need for the Gates Foundation. It's dumb to do something bad and then feel guilty about it to do something to fix the bad thing. Just don't do the bad thing in the first place. The Gates Foundation is pretty much there to make Gates look like he's doing good despite the fact that he is doing evil.

Speaking of Malaria... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577556)

Perfect example; Is a company that makes DDT good or bad?

Re:Speaking of Malaria... (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578560)

Loaded question. Especially in Bhopal.

Re:SRI (1)

rednip (186217) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577622)

I agree mostly, but when one can clearly define a boundary, such as apartheid, or ties to a ruthless regime, it can be a tool, if people 'gang up' on this boundary. However that is rarely the case, you might have noticed that people rarely agree in such great numbers.

Personally I'm an 'armchair environmentalist' but I believe that we/they need better laws to regulate pollution, so that all companies operate from a similar waste management cost structure and that responsible companies don't suffer a competitive disadvantage when competing against more ruthless competition.

Re:SRI (5, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578070)

Actually, companies discovered something interesting after the anti-pollution laws were passed in the sixties and seventies (I'm not sure when they actually noticed this. When companies reduced pollution, they made greater profit. It turns out that the best way to reduce pollution is to turn "pollution" (i.e. waste) into product. Oftentimes a product that the company didn't make before. The point is pollution is waste, the less you waste the more money you make. I suspect a similar principle applies to behavirs that are truly evil, the less you do them the more profitable you will be (everything else being equal).

Re:SRI (2, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577736)

Socially responsible investing is essentially impossible. Public companies are almost always too large and complex to boil down into a single binary good/evil decision matrix

Not only that, a lot of people have started investing in blocks of things which relate to people's vices, because over time, those make a lot more money.

Sadly, if you invest your money in alcohol, tobacco, fast food, and someone who makes fertilizer out of 3rd world babies, you will probbaly make more money than someone who invests in ethical funds. The rationale, is that as things go to poo, people turn to their vices.

People's vices are a lot more reliable than their collective desire to do good, sadly. And, I believe quite a few brokers/investors have figured out you can capitalize on it.

Cheers

Re:SRI (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578948)

because over time, those make a lot more money,
Well, no, in general, socially responsible mutual funds have returns that are very similar to the returns of index funds. Actually you only have to own a surprisingly small number of stocks before your stock portfolio basically starts to follow the market indices very closely. That's one of the reasons that actively managed, diversified mutual funds are a total scam; in general, the only way you can do significantly better or worse than the market indices is to avoid diversification.

I think a more valid criticism of SRI funds is that they assume a certain set of liberal-tinged value judgments about what's socially responsible and what's not. For instance, they avoid energy companies that are involved in nuclear power, whereas I personally think nuclear power is the only real hope for saving the planet. Also, as a secular libertarian, I have no problem at all with investing in alcohol and gambling; I support people's freedom to get drunk and gamble, allowing me to profit. The solution I ended up with was to start with the set of stocks in the Domini SRI fund, then add in the ones that I thought were OK but Domini didn't. It was basically an afternoon's worth of hacking around with perl scripts, and I had my own DYI version of a socially screened index fund.

Re:SRI (1)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577780)

Then stay out of the stock market. Countries are much easier to rank, so they could buy the public debt of countries. There's also municipal debt that can be purchased.

Re:SRI (2, Insightful)

bigpat (158134) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577862)

Socially responsible investing is essentially impossible. Public companies are almost always too large and complex to boil down into a single binary good/evil decision matrix, and if one could, if investing in the evil company (for little direct benefit to the company by the way) you could do 25% more really good things (say 25% fewer malria cases or more clean drinking water in Africa, the moral calculus becomes quite complicated.
No, turns out that isn't it at all. Really it was because when they started out reviewing corporate activities, they started out by reading the corporate mission statements and the only one that even bothered saying they wouldn't be doing any evil was Google Inc... so by their new policy the Gates' foundation would have had to invest solely in Google and that was just going to look bad for everyone. That and the board of directors heard some grumbling about "...that Damn Google..." coming from Bill's office.

Re:SRI (3, Insightful)

will (6647) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578026)

Socially responsible investing is essentially impossible.

Not impossible, just difficult, and isn't the whole point of the Gates Foundation to place money selectively in order to "reduce inequity and improve lives"? Now they're saying that putting money in the right place is a problem too hard to work out.

Public companies are almost always too large and complex to boil down into a single binary good/evil decision matrix

You're right, but the decision they've made here is much less complex than that. Nobody can objectively weigh up which is worse, BAT or BAe, but anyone can say "I'm not going to put my assets at the disposal of tobacco and arms companies". When someone like the Gates Foundation says that the pension funds and investment banks who channel all this money will take notice and offer an alternative. Instead, rather than thinking through the problem of how to do the greatest good with a huge pile of money, the Foundation has decided to seek the greatest possible return, regardless of the consequences, and do good later.

Next thing you know, people will be using torture to fight for freedom. Oh, wait.

Re:SRI (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578108)

Socially responsible investing...

While admiting that I like the concept, I also wonder if it doesn't make you(editorial) a little bit like those religious whackos who demand that advertisers pull their ads off of "offensive" programming. I suppose the best solution is to spend your money where you see fit, and let the other people decide how to spend theirs.

Re:SRI (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578800)

"those religious whackos who demand..."

Seems to me like anybody should be free (or should I say Free) to demand anything they want, seeing as how a demand is simply somebody saying what they'd like.

If that demand were to acquire the force of law, indeed there should be more strictures. But anybody should be able to write angry letters (or press releases) about anything they wish.

Re:SRI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578300)

Sorry, but the needs of the money outweigh the needs of the few...

Re:SRI (2, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578700)

Socially responsible investing is essentially impossible.
Wow. What a great way to boil a vastly complicated subject down to a smug sound-bite. Are you going to deny the existence of socially responsible mutual funds, or are you going to claim that they're just run by people who aren't smart enough to share your opinion of their futility?

Public companies are almost always too large and complex to boil down into a single binary good/evil decision matrix,
Well, no. That's another absurd oversimplification. SCO, for example, is a publicly traded company. SCO is not really all that large and complex. SCO is in the software business. They don't sell macaroni and cheese, they don't drill oil wells, and they aren't providing financial services in Kazakhstan.

You might also want to study a little of history. For instance, US divestment [wikipedia.org] from companies doing business in South Africa is generally agreed to have been a contributing factor in the downfall of apartheid.

Re:SRI (1)

thegnu (557446) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578822)

if investing in the evil company (for little direct benefit to the company by the way) you could do 25% more really good things...

I don't know why they don't just decide to be a little less agressive in terms of growth. Yes, they can do "more" if they invest in high-growth sectors that are debatably evil, but why not, if you are a charitable organization, use the same level of scrutiny for investments as you presumably do for the charity side?

The place where the They Can Do More argument falls flat is when investing in an oil company that exploits developing nations you're actively trying to help, you create a conflict of interest. In this example, you would look at the land essentially stolen from indigenous people, the pollutants spewed right into the air right over long-standing communities, and the wholesale of murder of brown people who speak in clicks and hums when necessary, and compare that to what you're trying to accomplish. If your investment proactively causes cancer in babies, fucking quit it.

Quit it, quit it, quit it.

I mean, they have $30 billion dollars, right? Why not just relax about the growth of the fund just a wee teeny bit, and face investment as a sort of social program as well. They could be funding GOOD people doing GOOD things, and they could get money back to boot. And then they wouldn't be a bunch of fat fucking hypocrites.

Not that there's anything wrong with being a hypocrite, other than the obvious, of course. The point is that good investment is a social program to be proud of, so why not have an organization you can be proud of? I'm sure there are plenty of volunteers who would offer investment plans that would be much kinder and beneficial to the world.

The Broken Window analogy (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579034)

OK, it's not quite the classic example but I think it works:

You buy a machine to manufacture widgets and as a by-product, it flings heavy iron balls of scrap out. Now it costs money to fix it so the iron balls just don't fling around and smash windows. But if the owner of the machine merely uses some of his profits to replace the broken windows of his neighbors, then that's good then, right?

That was the point of the LA times article: if those companies were NOT behaving like that, the foundation wouldn't need to be spending money to fix the problems the companies cause.

Not surprising at all (4, Insightful)

HydroCarbon10 (40784) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577296)

Ideologies unable to capture and model complexity of real life -- News at 10.

Yawn.

Not surprising at all-RMS's David. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17577548)

Shhh! RMS is in the room.

Ethical revision (4, Insightful)

soundvessel (899042) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577328)

Is a company not allowed to revise their statement? They are, by and large, stating fact here. The world is complex. An investment for a seemingly righteous cause is an investment in a contradictory cause in another area. Which cause do they choose?

One might say that they have enough money to do both. To invest in all causes and cancel out the 'bad' by fueling all of the good and bad together.

What level of abstraction is a foundation obligated to operate at? The Higher Goal, the Micromanaged Goal, or some blend in-between?

Re:Ethical revision (1)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577856)

It's called flip flopping and indicates a probable lie. A few days ago their PR image was hurting, so they said whatever was needed to make it look good again. When they revise it so soon after adopting it, it certainly makes one wonder if they ever intended to go through with it in the first place.

Re:Ethical revision (4, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577982)

In some cases it is just not possible.

Lets say the GF is investing in a toxic spewing power plant in a 3rd world country. People could cry foul and demand that GF pull out their money. But if GF pulled their money out of that power plant, the medical center they invested in just 2 miles down the road wouldn't have stable electricity. With out medical care, the quality of life remains abysmal. Also with out the stable electricity that plant produces, local businesses would suffer and close. Unemployement would rise, and the local social situation would deteriorate even more. Many people would cry for a new clean burning power plant. But it could take a decade to get such a plant designed, cleared by the government, built and operational.

And the PR would be impossible to manage. If you claim to be investing responsibly, and someone wants to take a shot at you, they can say "look at these liars, they claim innocence, yet spew toxic waste from their power plants." It makes a great sound bit, and can be easily spread and widely believed (People will believe anything if they either want it to be true, or fear it to be true). Spreading the truth of the situation would require your audience to take time to rationally think about the situation in a more broad scope. That is something that the 2000 and 2004 US elections have shown us to be a highly unlikely event.

-Rick

Shock, Amazement (0, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577338)

"Bill and Melinda oversee the investment of the foundation's endowment. In giving guidance to the investment managers, they have chosen not to get involved in ranking companies based upon factors such as their lending policies or environmental record. There are dozens of factors that could be considered, almost all of which are outside the foundation's areas of expertise. The issues involved are quite complex...Which social and political issues should be on the list?"

To all of you who claimed that the Gates foundation was evidence that Billy boy had a heart after all - I wish I had been wrong, but I TOLD YOU SO. Look, Gates is not interested in philanthropy. He's interested in public relations. "We spend more than anyone!" Yeah, okay. But are you actually healing more harm than you're doing? If you were actually interested in keeping these people healthy you'd be attacking these very companies that you're investing in.

I think this fairly clearly proves that Gates' motivations are not altruistic.

Re:Shock, Amazement (1, Troll)

lbrandy (923907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577432)

I think this fairly clearly proves that Gates' motivations are not altruistic.

That's a joke, right?

Re:Shock, Amazement (4, Insightful)

CyberLord Seven (525173) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577670)

No, it is not a joke.

I remember a small story in the Bible that goes something like this:

Jesus (pronounced HAY-ZEUS and means son of Zeus) was lounging around gathering contributions one day. There was a large crowd watching him. Some were donating money. Most were asking each other how a Hebrew could have such pale skin when the only people with pale skin in that region of the world were Romans and Greeks, and Jesus was neither. The long hair on his head was the cause of much speculation as well since, in that time and place, men wore their hair cut short. It was decided that the best way to find an explanation for these things was to ask Michelangelo and Pope Julius II della Rovere.

Right about the time everyone realized Michelangelo and Pope Julius II della Rovere would not be born for another 1500 years, a loud, proud, rich man pushed through the crowd and stepped up to Jesus. With a large grin beaming across his face the man reached into the pockets of his leather Jordache(TM) jeans and pulled out a thick wad of greenbacks. From this he peeled off ten Benjamins and spread them on the table before Jesus. Jesus accepted the money and said a simple, "Thank you". This startled the man. With a look of surprise on his face he stepped back a bit and watched for a while. It was clear to the crowd that he had expected more.

Within a few minutes some old, musty smelling broad came through the crowd. She quietly shuffled up to Jesus and gave him a single penny. Jesus smiled at the old woman, blessed her, and wished her well.

Now the rich bastard that donated the Benjamins became angry...irate...pissed-off you might say. He stormed up to Jesus and got LOUD in Jesus' face. "I gave you a thousand dollars, muthafucka'! How come you blessed that bitch for her penny and didn't say shit to me?"

The crowd drew back and sang a collective "Oooooh!" in fear of impending violence. A couple of instigators in the crowd shouted out things like, "You gonna' take that?", and "slap that hippy".

Jesus was quick to his feet.

He pimp-slapped the punk to the ground, put a foot on his neck and calmly explained to the fool, "You gave me a small portion of your wealth that you will not miss. That kind, gentle woman gave me everything she had in the world."

I wonder why I think about that story everytime someone talks about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Re:Shock, Amazement (1)

statusbar (314703) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577694)

This story somehow reminds me of a story about how a high-upper-class wife of a CEO in California would run a charity. This charity would have fund raising events to raise money for starving children in Africa. The events typically would be a big dinner and dance. They would charge $1000.00 per plate for the dinner. 50 people would come and they would raise $50,000.00 for charity!

But in reality 98% of the $50,000.00 went to her friend's catering companies, security companies, and florists. They end up raising $2,000.00 for starving children, they get to make huge tax deductible donations, and their friend's companies make profit. The next time around the friends rotate the roles so everyone gets to roll in the profit.

If the Gates foundation has many billions of dollars, this money can't just be put into a single bank account. It must be invested. They also must give away some of the money every year. But the key here is that they get to control which companies get the investment money, and they get to pay less tax on this money in order to exert this control over other companies, plus they get to play philanthropy.

Playing philanthropy is just the extension of the need for personal power.

btw IANAA (I Am Not An Accountant) but I watched on on TV.

--jeffk++

Why Invest At All? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578722)


This story somehow reminds me of a story about how a high-upper-class wife of a CEO in California would run a charity. This charity would have fund raising events to raise money for starving children in Africa. The events typically would be a big dinner and dance. They would charge $1000.00 per plate for the dinner. 50 people would come and they would raise $50,000.00 for charity!

But in reality 98% of the $50,000.00 went to her friend's catering companies, security companies, and florists. They end up raising $2,000.00 for starving children, they get to make huge tax deductible donations, and their friend's companies make profit. The next time around the friends rotate the roles so everyone gets to roll in the profit.

If the Gates foundation has many billions of dollars, this money can't just be put into a single bank account. It must be invested. They also must give away some of the money every year. But the key here is that they get to control which companies get the investment money, and they get to pay less tax on this money in order to exert this control over other companies, plus they get to play philanthropy.

Playing philanthropy is just the extension of the need for personal power.

btw IANAA (I Am Not An Accountant) but I watched on on TV.

--jeffk++


$60B +
Invest to what end if the goal is to give it all away?
Why invest in a crappy power plant instead of building a new, more efficient power plant or alternative power source? How about some public/environmentally friendly public utility, like a plant that provides clean water?

The above is partly rhetorical. Can any one truly answer my questions above?

Thanks.

Re:Shock, Amazement (1)

thePig (964303) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577574)

Aren't you being a little too harsh on a person who spent more than 1/3rd of his life's savings in philanthropy>
His point, as many would point out here, is that it is very difficult for an investor to invest only in companies to do no evil.
Many of the evils, say pollution etc, might be offset by the same company by providing jobs/shelter for many of the localities and much more importantly, transference of knowledge to the poor.
If the same company decides to avoid doing evil and go completely green, then the competition, which has no such restrictions imposed on them, might destroy it. Then the company would have done disservice to their shareholders/employees and the native people and thereby would have committed evil.

I guess there is a lot of gray areas in the working of these, and it is unnecessarily harsh to lambaste someone who did the right thing, as he felt it.

Re:Shock, Amazement (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577748)

Aren't you being a little too harsh on a person who spent more than 1/3rd of his life's savings in philanthropy>

What's HE going to do with billions of dollars?

His point, as many would point out here, is that it is very difficult for an investor to invest only in companies to do no evil.

And my point, as a rational person who has not been brainwashed and who understands english and demands a lack of hypocrisy would comprehend, is that if your stated goal is to improve the quality of life for people then you have a responsibility to DO the necessary research and only invest your money in companies which improve the net quality of life. Anything else is completely hypocritical. What you're saying is that it's hard to do good and make money at the same time. Well, what the fuck? I thought this was a philanthropic organization, not one designed to make money.

Now the immediate reaction to that statement is that if they make more money, they can spend it to improve the quality of life. But clearly at least one company in which they have invested is harming people horribly. Can you really sit there and with a straight face tell me that the investors do not share the blame? The investors make it possible for these companies to exploit people. Period. Without them, the exploitation could not occur. And yes, we ALL have a RESPONSIBILITY to only invest in companies which match our morality. Otherwise, you are simply doing things that, well, you don't know what they are. Do you really find that to be acceptable?

Many of the evils, say pollution etc, might be offset by the same company by providing jobs/shelter for many of the localities and much more importantly, transference of knowledge to the poor.

And that makes it okay to pollute? To harm every inhabitant of the globe through pollution? To be making people in the area sick? You know why they don't care if they do it? Because people will still come to work for them because they're the only thing around. Does that make it right for them to produce such egregious pollution? Are you seriously going to make that argument? When the people working in the plant get sick and are simply replaced, with the previous employees kicked out on the street to die, is that justified by education? Is that justified by giving people jobs for which you pay them orders of magnitude less than the prevailing wage in other countries which are producing the same commodity? Let me share with you a couple of lines from a Bad Religion song called "Quality or Quantity":

offer me eternity, and i'll trade a cup of coffee and a dime
looking for a handout on behalf of those who have so little time
but who wants to live on just 70 cents a day?
padding your pockets doesn't make this a better place
"cereal and water" is a feast for some you say
your price-tag on existence can't cover your double face

This says it better than I ever could.

Re:Shock, Amazement (1)

thePig (964303) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578564)

What's HE going to do with billions of dollars?

Most people try to keep it for their future generations.

we ALL have a RESPONSIBILITY to only invest in companies which match our morality. Otherwise, you are simply doing things that, well, you don't know what they are. Do you really find that to be acceptable?

I agree to your point. But, only to a degree. What he might be thinking might be very different from what we think.
There has been a lot of philanthropic organizations over the years, and very few made any mark in the world. Here, he has divided it to two different areas, one which makes money to support the other. Both of them doesn't influence each other. Such an operation might be in the end a way to make positive changes in the world.

And that makes it Tokay to pollute? To harm every inhabitant of the globe through pollution? To be making people in the area sick? You know why they don't care if they do it? Because people will still come to work for them because they're the only thing around. Does that make it right for them to produce such egregious pollution? Are you seriously going to make that argument? When the people working in the plant get sick and are simply replaced, with the previous employees kicked out on the street to die, is that justified by education? Is that justified by giving people jobs for which you pay them orders of magnitude less than the prevailing wage in other countries which are producing the same commodity?

I guess you haven't been to 3rd/4th world countries till now. I have been, it does (at least in my eyes) make it Ok. See, if that company doesn't pollute, some other company will. Bribes are rampant and nobody gives a heck about environment. The people there are concerned about their day-to-day survival. A very high percentage of them. They do not live usually long enough to feel the effects of it. People die young, and so they have much higher tolerance for pollution. Here what is needed is money for survival and education. That is what these companies provide. And the most important fact is that the education that they gain helps the whole country.

Now at least we know that the money that they make through this is at least going to help the people in that country. And that, I guess is the most important thing.

Re:Shock, Amazement (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578802)

See, if that company doesn't pollute, some other company will.

Oh, so that makes it okay? As long as someone else would have done it, you can consider your hands to be clean?

The message I'm getting from you (and those who moderated me as a troll, when I clearly believe what I am saying) is that morality is a useless concept. I don't feel that it is. I feel that some things are just wrong and that lying is one of them, and investing in companies that knowingly and avoidably harm people is another. Yeah, some guy might rob a bank with or without me, does that mean I should volunteer to help him carry the bags of cash to his car in exchange for a tip? Because that is an excellent metaphor for what's happening here. They're cashing out from the earth and harming people in the process, and the Gates Foundation is helping them do it. That doesn't sound very benevolent to me.

Bribes are rampant and nobody gives a heck about environment. The people there are concerned about their day-to-day survival. A very high percentage of them. They do not live usually long enough to feel the effects of it. People die young, and so they have much higher tolerance for pollution.

What? People die young in part because of pollution, and the changes to their lifestyle brought on by unscrupulous capitalists who feel that it is appropriate to take advantage of the people's economically-depressed status in order to make money off of their suffering. It doesn't sound so nice when you put it that way, does it? The simple reality is that it is entirely possible for these companies to make obscene profits while still improving the quality of life.

In fact this brings up an excellent point that I look forward to raising in future conversations about cancer rates; many argue that cancer rates have climbed primarily because longetivity has increased. I cannot agree at all with this premise. There are indigenous peoples all over this planet who were regularly living for over a hundred years before the coming of the industrial age; in fact the Pomo peoples, Native Americans who live in a fairly restricted and secluded area of North America, fall into this category. Yet today their lifespans have been sharply reduced and cancer rates appear to be comparable to the rest of the population. This area used to be something of a beautiful natural paradise with several native species of oaks and practically absurd quantities of wildlife. Then ranchers came in and besides beginning to exterminate Pomos (I actually live in a town, Kelseyville, which is named after a man who with the assistance of his family enslaved, murdered, and raped large numbers of Pomo people) they also destroyed the land here and made large portions of it incapable of supporting a population that does not use organized agriculture.

Okay so that was a bit of a rant but the point is that industrialization is primarily responsible for both the improvement in the quality of life in the developed world, and the reduction in quality of life everywhere else, both for the pollution itself and the fundamental inequalities it made possible. Cancer rates doubled during the industrial revolution, and people have been quick to say that the increase in lifespan which occurred around the same time is primarily responsible, and I held that view myself until recently. Lifespans over 100 years are fairly common amongst rural villagers in China, in spite of (or perhaps because of - my mother was almost killed by a drug interaction recently) their poor access to modern medicine. The rapidly-moving industrialization of China will be a telling "experiment" in the effects of technology on the peoples of the world.

Now at least we know that the money that they make through this is at least going to help the people in that country. And that, I guess is the most important thing.

No, we don't know that. Vaccines don't really help people dying of respiratory failure.

Re:Shock, Amazement (1, Troll)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578190)

"Aren't you being a little too harsh on a person who spent more than 1/3rd of his life's savings in philanthropy"

Yeah, and stealing from the poor and middle class (via Microsoft) is a great way to get that money in the first place.

It also ignores the fact that he's wastes more resources on frivolous personal expenses than most people will ever see in a lifetime.

Re:Shock, Amazement (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578794)

Aren't you being a little too harsh on a person who spent more than 1/3rd of his life's savings in philanthropy
Ordinary people have life savings. I find the image of BG carefully stashing a little of his earnings every week to provide for his old age ludicrous. Most of it is share price.

If he was a true philanthropist and really altruistic, then it wouldn't be called the *Gates* Foundation. Charity is a private thing, not done for bragging points or tax avoidance.

Re:Shock, Amazement (1)

gatesvp (957062) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577812)

I think this fairly clearly proves that Gates' motivations are not altruistic.

Or maybe it's more simply true that real life is complicated and that throwing money at a problem is usually only part of the solution.

Re:Shock, Amazement (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578100)

Or maybe it's more simply true that real life is complicated and that throwing money at a problem is usually only part of the solution.

Yes, that's true! So when Gates throws money at the problem, and doesn't inspect where the money is going, that is only a partial solution. That in itself would not be proof of his lack of altruism - the fact that they are not going to revise their practices constitutes that proof. They're whining about how doing the right thing is hard, but the whole point of a philanthropic organization is to do the right thing! So it's hard... did he really think solving the world's problems would be easy? Is the fact that it's hard not to do harm a valid excuse for doing harm?

As time goes by I have been refining my processes to do less harm wherever possible. I've been buying more and more locally-made products and locally-grown produce. I've been avoiding more of the major brands known to treat people horribly (like Nike) and even buying products with less toxic or nonbiodegradable ingredients. I'm not saying this makes me a saint or anything, but I'm pointing out that I'm working to reduce my negative impact on the world.

But meanwhile, the Gates foundation has in a very short period of time promised to do this thing that I am doing, trying to minimize negative impact, and then changed their mind and withdrawn their statement because doing that is difficult. Well, cry me a fucking river. Yes, it's hard to do the right thing. It costs money. But on the other hand there are long lists of companies which engage in fair trade practices that could be used to find investment targets. Are they less-lucrative investments? Often they are. Is it hypocritical to support companies which are harming people when there are companies which are actually improving the quality of life for people AND doing their best to be sustainable and have output equal to their input, and who believe in fairness and treating their employees and neighbors like humans and not just animals, to whom any abuse is justified and can be excused by paying off the right people? Why yes, it is the height of hypocrisy.

Those of you who are willing to forgive this behavior are simply putting your blessing on lies and as such you are part of the problem. Those of you who are buying these excuses are fools. I bet you believe that the war on drugs is about saving the children, too.

Be a part of the solution. DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY. Bill is excusing himself from accountability because it's harder to be accountable than just to run around willy-nilly acting like you're making a difference while ignoring the real, root problems and anyone accepting the bullshit excuses is just making it easier for them to do so. All of you making excuses for the gates foundation must share in the blame for the ill they are doing in the name of investiture.

I see from moderation that you don't get it (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578482)

Let me revisit the linked article again. Let's look at this paragraph:

"Shareholder activism is one factor that can influence corporate behavior. The foundation is a passive investor because we want to stay focused on our core issues."

Now let's look at this statement carefully because it very well may be the most important statement in the entire thing: it contains an admission that shareholder activism can influence corporate behavior but they want to be a "passive investor" (meaning you don't stand up for your beliefs, if indeed you have any) because... well, why? They want to stay focuses on their core issues? Apparently, the health of the people they claim they are trying to help is not a core issue for the Gates Foundation.

How can any of you buy these bullshit arguments from the foundation? All you have to do is look at the literal meanings of the words they are using to realize that their words actually tell you the truth! But even more importantly, all you need do is look at their actions to tell you what they really believe. The old axiom about actions speaking louder than words is no less true in this instance than in any other. Immunizing people and then turning around and investing in a company that's killing them... well, I think that pretty clearly proves what's really going on here. I'm not trying to show that the foundation is malicious, I'm pointing out that they don't actually care about the people they claim they are trying to help. If they did they would be attacking this company for polluting these people's homes and their bodies.

I've never really understood why people are so willing to protect the hypocrisy of others, but I'm pretty sure that it has something to do with their own hypocrisy... the people who say "Oh yeah, life is terrible in the third world" and then go out and buy a pair of Nikes that were made with what is effectively slave labor, assembled by a bunch of kids who sit around huffing the toxic glue fumes all day until their brain has the consistency of runny oatmeal, really have to defend corporate actions like these lest they be confronted with the realities of their own actions.

Re:Shock, Amazement (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578944)

1. When you grow up, hopefully you'll learn that very few things in life and black and white. That's a fact of life. All we can all do is the best that we can.

2. You don't spend billions on "public relations". You spend billions on advertising. You've got to be an absolute idiot to give away billions of dollars for PR.

3. He IS doing it for altruistic reasons. Get over yourself.

Which issues!? (3, Insightful)

rodentia (102779) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577376)


Which social and political issues should be on the list?

Perhaps the issues your foundation is ostensibly targeting? There might be some in-house expertise on those problems.

Damn good point. (2, Insightful)

hypermanng (155858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577742)

The matter of expertise is critical. Perhaps they could turn their assets over to some SRI management firm with the experience and knowledge necessary to undertake such a monumental task as trying to differentially calculate the social value of each company in which it invests... but that still leaves the problem of deciding what SRI firm's goal significantly match their own conception of social good, and so on.

It's probably best that the foundation just lets its capital ride wherever the market takes it with its easy-to-read financial information while the foundation focuses on spending the proceeds on projects about which it knows a great deal.

Re:Damn good point. (3, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578810)

The impact of a responsible investment policy on the money scale of GF will exceed the results from donating proceeds by an unimaginable magnitude.

While the money it is giving to good causes may sound great, it is nothing compared to the possible impact of running a strictly "responsible investment" policy with a money chest of their size (Most of BG money and most of the wizard of Omaha money nowdays).

This will turn the stockmarket bottom up, upside down and leave it on its head for a very long time. Money this size will cause a large number of companies to accept responsible corporate polices in order to be eligible for investment. You cannot just ignore it or turn its back on it. This in turn will force move of other investment and so on and so on.

I can bet that the perspective of this happening has scared all those pyramid jugglers with "quantitative models" shitless. I can bet that the real reason for BGF to abandon the policy 2 days after stating it is that Gates personal phone (the one not published in the phonebook) did not stop ringing during that period.

So this most likely is an order from above and it sucks. A money chest this size which is bound by "responsible investment" covenant may have forced many companies to assume more responsible polices and ultimately changed the world to the better much more than the money GF gives away to good causes. Everything else aside, its effect would have been much more long term.

Good for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17577444)

Nice to see somebody stand up to the latte-swilling, sandal-wearing crowd of idiots. Personally, I invest in Exxon. They do the world an incalculable good and get a scant 5% return. Microsoft heaps pain and suffering on all computer-dom and they get rewarded with double digit returns. Huh?

How about just making a statement? (2, Insightful)

Bananenrepublik (49759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577464)

Some activities might even be viewed positively by some people and negatively by others.
This is precisely the reason why it would be important that they made a clear statement on which activities they see as positive / negative.

How to really make a difference. Money Talks (4, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577494)

One simple step
1) Start moving cash to companies that provide audits of their social actions.

Once the money moves you can bet companies are going to start acting.

As long as we say "it is not possible" and do not try it remains not done.
But the only barrier is a lack of will power to commit.

Re:How to really make a difference. Money Talks (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578098)

That's the most insightful comment I've seen on /. in weeks. With a tiny fraction of their money the Gates foundation could start a small company that does the audits (or support one that already does). If a company ranks high enough they get an investment. Plus the information would help the rest of the world know how these companies are impacting them. That alone would indirectly support the foundation's goals.

Some are complex some not so complex (2, Insightful)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577508)

I'm sure the foundation could still put together some sort of panel to at least check off the companies invested in as "not 100% harmful" (or something along those lines). I'm sure some decisions regarding whether a company is doing enough good to outweigh the bad are too complex to bother with. But I do think some might not be too complex, and at the very least may reaffirm that the foundation's investments are admirable enough. Some companies, like BP, aren't pure evil. Some, like Sony BMG, totally are. (I don't actually know what companies the foundation invests in because I'm irresponsible like that.)

Re:Some are complex some not so complex (4, Insightful)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577710)

Some companies, like BP, aren't pure evil. Some, like Sony BMG, totally are.

This view is, like anyones, based on your views and experience. (Mind you, I don't necessarily disagree, I'm just going to point out another viewpoint).

The GW groups would probably consider BP pure evil as they pump and sell oil, regardless of anything else they do. Sony BMG, on the other hand, doesn't have any direct say in it so they wouldn't consider them evil.

On the other hand, most of us on /. are anti-DRM, anti-RIAA and pro-It's MY Computer so we generally consider Sony BMG a negative force with BP being fairly decent with all them investing the oil profits into alternative energy schemes.

Taking a Nuclear Power Plant can also be good or evil depending on your view. Energy free of CO2 emmissions or a Chernobyl waiting to happen.

Re:Some are complex some not so complex (1)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577950)

My view is that BP's positioning is just a big PR stunt.

The money amounts are fairly modest, BP is still drilling for more oil, and they seem to spend an inordinate amount of resources trumpeting themselves.

Re:Some are complex some not so complex (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578112)

LOL I see your point of course but on a tangent, anyone who sees a modern-day nuclear power plant as a Chernobyl waiting to happen really isn't worth the air he/she breathes. Nuclear power's only real drawback is the waste, and if that is properly handled there shouldn't be any issues. Greenpeace's alarmist and apocalyptic campaign against nuclear power really tarnishes their otherwise noble mission, IMO.

Anyway, from the point of view of how many people benefit vs. how many suffer, and to what degree, I don't expect the foundation to take an "objective" approach. I expect them to look at it from the point of view of the foundation's main goals. If they are biased, that's fine, but at least their decisions can make sense to *them.* I would find that better than just throwing their hands up and giving up. Providing incentives for companies to strive for better energy use, better treatment of workers, etc. -- those are things the foundation can definitely practice.

Re:Some are complex some not so complex (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577958)

"Some companies, like BP, aren't pure evil. Some, like Sony BMG, totally are."

Christ, you've been on Slashdot too long. As much as Sony fucks over their customers, they're not the ones employing guerrillas in Colombia, etc.

We've got corporations that, for example, turn a blind eye to child labor (Nike), unfree labor (Coca-Cola), or mass homicide by industrial accidents (Union Carbide). DRM and DMCA lawsuits really just don't belong on the same scale.

Re:Some are complex some not so complex (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578162)

That's fair enough. I just couldn't think of anything because I am admittely not up-to-date on anything ethically questionably that major companies are up to. I just couldn't come up with a good reason for Sony BMG to exist, is all :-) and yes I have been on Slashdot for too long.

responsibility (3, Funny)

coldsleep (1037374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577534)

I hope that the Stephen & Melinda Gates Foundation approaches this issue with a little more responsibility.

With great power comes great responsibility (2, Insightful)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577554)

And one would think that the power of being the largest endowed charity in the world would cause those in charge of it to question their results. I'm disappointed, but not surprised. How much of a surprise is it, really, that it requires a different personality and approach to be a good humanitarian instead of a good businessman? Business is complex, but there's an impartial judge at the end, in little black numbers at the bottom. People, generally, do not live by little black numbers. Successful businessmen often do, and one of the fundamental problems with our system is that living this kind of life does not mean you play well with others.

It is quite possible that the Gates Foundation, by being a completely passive investor with so much clout, will do more damage than good. Enough passive investment leads to completely profit-driven organizations, which tend towards running amok all over the people they get involved with.

I now consider this a foundation built upon unstable, rotten ground.

Re:With great power comes great responsibility (1)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578050)

I'm not the least bit surprised. What else to expect from the same Bill Gates that has done so much to privatize and monopolize the commons that was computer software.

Forest, meet trees (1)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578448)

People, generally, do not live by little black numbers.
Tell that to the poor.

Re:Forest, meet trees (1)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579042)

Hey, we should just throw massive amounts of money at all our problems then. Like we're succeeding so well with in Iraq.

Re:With great power comes great responsibility (1)

Tim Browse (9263) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578550)

How much of a surprise is it, really, that it requires a different personality and approach to be a good humanitarian instead of a good businessman?
In the words of Monty Burns:

"I'll keep it short and sweet.
Family. Religion. Friendship.
These are the three demons you must slay, if you wish to succeed in business."

I'd have to side with Gates on this .... (3, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577572)

He benefits the world more in spending his time on his endowments than on wasting that time micromanaging his investments. Even if he had the time - or wasted the money to hire the legal help to assist him - to weed out the 'bad' companies from his portfolio there is no way to make everyone happy. Everyone has a different moral threshold. But what **is** beneficial to everyone is the endowments, and that is what the Gates' should be focusing on.

Re:I'd have to side with Gates on this .... (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577952)

He benefits the world more in spending his time on his endowments than on wasting that time micromanaging his investments. Even if he had the time - or wasted the money to hire the legal help to assist him - to weed out the 'bad' companies from his portfolio there is no way to make everyone happy.

Just to be clear -- we're talking about a foundation here, not one guy named Bill Gates. The Gates Foundation hires people to manage every other aspect of its day to day operations. Why is hiring people to manage its investments out of the question? I'm sure it already has such people on staff.

It's not about the money (1)

jdp816 (895616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577578)

This is simple proof that it's not money that will solve the worlds problems. The Foundation has truck loads of cash, and they admit they can't apply it in a way to solve world issues. Any one who makes the argument that money spent on a poorly done issue (War in Iraq, War on Drugs, etc) could be better spent on "fight poverty" or feeding the hungry" needs to take their head out of the dark moist place it's been stuck and get a breath of fresh air. The application of many small acts will do much more to solve problems that the simple act of throwing more money at them.

I'm confused (2, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577592)

Isn't the point of an organization such as this to determine where the money should go? If big companies are too complex to figure out, invest in the smallest companies that meet your goals. GE doesn't need your philanthropy. A small pharmaceutical that tries to provide cost-effective drugs to those in need does.

The Gates foundation keeps many millions of dollars invested in public companies. But rather than riding the blue chips they could invest that money in local bonds or small companies that indirectly assist their goals.

Re:I'm confused (1)

donutello (88309) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579048)

You're confusing investment with charity. The Gates foundation invests its money to get a return. It then uses those returns to perform charity. When(if) they invest in GE, it's not as an act of charity towards GE but because they believe that investment will return them more money that they can use to perform charity.

Not impossible (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577652)

Socially Responsible Investing is not all together impossible. It just requires some work. If SRI is done, especially by as powerful a charitable organization as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is, then companies would be forced to consider their ethical implications of doing business or face fleeing investors. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has the distinct possibility to do more than just charitable work but to become an industry watchdog for companies compromising ethics in favor of profit. Companies are concerned with their media and public image. Therefore, it would hurt public perception considerably if a well-respected charitable organization publicly refuses to invest because said company engages in harmful/unethical business practices.

well... (2, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577678)

On the one hand, Gates can come off as being greedy, and often times not practicing what he preaches. He basically seems to care about being rich.

On the other hand, you could say Gates is a perfect example that our mutated form of capitalism can indeed work. The man basically started from scratch. Whether he stole ideas or not is irrelevant: the point is, he didn't do a single thing that no one else couldn't have done themselves.

The difference is, he actually did it.

Put aside your personal opinion of Microsoft for the moment, and look at what this man has accomplished. Starting from basically nothing, he has built a multi-billion dollar buisness which is used by roughly 90% of the computing world. I don't care how he got there, I don't care if someoen likes him or doesn't like him, I don't care what toes he stepped on to get there; there are a couple FACTS that you cannot deny regardless of your opinion:

FACT: WE THE CONSUMERS created this monopoly. No one but the general consumers made this company a massive force in the computing world. They didn't magically pull money out of their ass; WE THE CONSUMERS gave it to them.

FACT: There is NOTHING that Bill Gates has done that someone else couldn't do; he just did it first and best. Regardless of how he got to where he was, you cannot deny the fact that in terms of adoption rate, income, and market penetration, NOBODY is ahead of Microsoft right now. NOBODY.

FACT: There is nothing stopping someone else from toppling Microsoft; Linux and Apple could do it...although I think Apple is in a better position to do so than Linux. Linux being open source actually kind of hurts Linux in this regard only because it makes it harder to get a definate measure of "success"; if I develop my own distro of Linux, it's not the same as your distro and thus is not the same operating system. But that's an entirely different conversation.)

Whatever your opinion is of Microsoft and Bill Gates, you cannot deny that the man has accomplished something no one else has.

Don't like it? Prove him to be horrible and change the opinion of hundreds of millions of people that use his product.

Re:well... (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578000)

I don't care how he got there

You could have just said that, because that sums up your entire post. You see only the some facts that you like and ignore the rest. I see you're new here, and you're trying to troll, but really... pull your head out of your ass.

Re:well... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578206)

I didn't mean that literally. If you notice, thoughout my post I said put aside your personal opinions of the man. Since you seem to think I am some kind of fanboy (or whatever geek-trendy word you wish to label me as), I can tell you that I personally despise the mans ethics. I think he is ruthless, and fucks over WAY too many people.

However, that doesn't mean that I cannot acknowledge that his company is SUCCESFULL.

I despise the iPod. I despise Apple. But I will NEVER EVER say that they havn't done something aamzing with the electronics market. I despise them with all my heart, but they have done a damn good job at what they are doing.

Christ, people act like Gates is the only person who has ever fucked people over to get ahead. Welcome to America.

Re:well... (Your facts are WRONG. (1)

Umuri (897961) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578028)

I reject your facts as being either false statements/interpretations of logic, or discussing something that is irrelevant in an attempt to prove a misguided point.

Quote:
FACT: There is NOTHING that Bill Gates has done that someone else couldn't do; he just did it first and best. Regardless of how he got to where he was, you cannot deny the fact that in terms of adoption rate, income, and market penetration, NOBODY is ahead of Microsoft right now. NOBODY.

First off, yes, Bill Gates has done things that others in his position COULD do. However that does not make them MORALLY right or acceptable. That's like arguing everyone could shoot people they disagree with, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Also, Your statement of facts about the success of microsoft are pointless and misleading, as discussed below.

Quote:
FACT: There is nothing stopping someone else from toppling Microsoft; Linux and Apple could do it...although I think Apple is in a better position to do so than Linux. Linux being open source actually kind of hurts Linux in this regard only because it makes it harder to get a definate measure of "success"; if I develop my own distro of Linux, it's not the same as your distro and thus is not the same operating system. But that's an entirely different conversation.)

FACT: WE THE CONSUMERS created this monopoly. No one but the general consumers made this company a massive force in the computing world. They didn't magically pull money out of their ass; WE THE CONSUMERS gave it to them.

I disagree. Microsoft achieved where it was through marketing a monopolistic product and using agreesive and otherwise unethical business practices. The company became a massive force once it started deviating from normal practices and instead squashing the competition, as well as locking in end users and corporations for future exploitation. The consumers did not create a monopoly, consumers allowed a good business model to flourish, which then turned bad and started essentially cheating to stay ahead.

Your assertion that nothing is stopping others from getting ahead of Microsoft is also false, and you try to reinforce it by directing attention away from that point and instead blaming linux as being open source and impossible to measure, while that has NOTHING to do with your contention. Your contention is that microsoft can be toppled. It wouldn't matter what topples it, or who has what market share, so measuring it is irrelevant. The reasons your contention is false is that microsoft practices aggressive and amoral market preservation tactics, such as forcing vendor lockin, as well as using their monopolistic position to force OEMS and other distributors to use windows, even to the point of punishing them if they don't use windows, or even just sell a computer with a blank hard drive. Also their extensive FUD compaign on the nation's media networks, which is backed by money and therefore not available to anyone who isn't a millionaire or with a huge financial backing. That campaign holds sway over the lower ranks of the general populace due to the fact that it is distributed by microsoft, and therefore holds some assumption that it would be in their best interest to believe it.

Now please return to the topic at hand, which is philanthropy, and not microsoft's business practices.

Re:well... (Your facts are WRONG. (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578506)

"Now please return to the topic at hand, which is philanthropy, and not microsoft's business practices."

Very well.

I think measuring something like if he has done more harm than good with his investments is something that would be very difficult to do, and the answer would change depending on who you asked.

On the one hand, it seems a lot of the charity that Gates gives (which measures in the millions, if not nearly a billion, if I'm not mistaken) is done in an attempt to improve his image. Beyond that, the amount he has given away (and raised) is a drop in the bucket for him.

On the other hand, no one is making him do it. Whatever his REASONS for doing it are, he is supporting good causes. People tend to gloss over those things. He has the means to do it, so he does it.

I know what my answer would be, but how many people do you think would do the same in his position? Well, obviously there are two answers:

-Few, because people are generally greedy and want everything for themselves. They feel "I earned this not you, so why should you get a free ride off it?" While many people may see this as boring selfish, they really have no legal or moral obligation to help the less fortunate...they have indeed "earned" it (by whatever definition you apply to those words), and have every right to keep it for themselves.

And the other answer being:

-Alot, because people have good intentions and want to help their fellow human. Many people can look past issues that are conjured up to keep us fighting such as class, religion, sexual orientation, income, political affiliation...all things designed to keep us fighting with each other. Many people can see past that and want the human SPECIES as a whole to flourish.

Many people believe a single person cannot make a big impact. This isn't entirely true; however, when you look at the number of people that have made a massive contribution to the world as a single person, compared to the number of people that have made little contributions, you will find there are many more people that do a little bit here and a little bit there. There have been billions of people making little contributions; there have comparitavely been a handful of people that have changed history.

Personally, I would prolly go with answer number 2. I see all people as a fellow human being, regardless of where they come from or what their opinion is. yes, I know, there are some really fucked up people out there...and yes, I know my opinion is a bit of a pipe dream, but still; overall, my opinion of humanity as a whole is a positive one. I think people are GENERALLY good and GENERALLY wish for the good of our species.

The more people that follow the philosophy of accepting and supporting the person next to them, the fewer problems there are in the world.

Everything in life can be compared to the Simpsons (1)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577744)

Bill Gates: "I didn't get rich by writing checks!!!"

Re:Everything in life can be compared to the Simps (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578230)

Mr. Burns: "I'll keep it short and sweet. Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business."

Practice what is preached (1)

zesty42 (1041348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577770)

Basically, it would be too difficult to hold other companies to the standard of ethics that MS has attained. It just wouldn't be fair. Wait... did I get that backwards?

Re:Practice what is preached (1)

DriveDog (822962) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578140)

Finally, someone understands the real reason for the backpedaling! Someone at the foundation suddenly realized that many would consider Microsoft to have been engaged in socially irresponsible actions. Sorting out the socially responsible organizations would highlight that MS might be missing from many peoples' version of the list. Logically, pretty simple. It does, however, have the appearance of being incredibly lazy for an organization with such stated goals to give up on avoiding funding those who work against them.

Skip the social investments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17577880)

Gates, because of his wife, is trying to pull a carnigie and rebuild his reputation as a good guy. But it will never happen. Why? because a large number of people will still find fault with whatever he does. Basically, the idea of doing social investments is ridiculus.

Personally, I think that spending money the way his foundation is doing it is a waste. Instead, he should do things that absolutely require HUGE money and then allow others to tend to the things that he is doing. In particular, if he spent the money on going to Mars, he could drive the economy. Or if he spent it on building up alternative energy esp in American, China, and India, he could be responsible for changing the course of human kind and making global warming a thing of the past. Or build a high speed maglev/rail system around the Americas going to Russia/China/Europe. By investing in infrastructure, he would drive the world.

Holy cow! (3, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577940)

Even their charitable foundation has to backpedal on the previously stated scope of its projects because of complexity.

Bill Gates is Evil, blah, blah, blah... (1)

roberthead (932434) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578030)

Wah!

Though I've always despised Microsoft for lots of good reasons, and have no admiration for Bill Gates the business 'leader', the Gates Foundation is probably doing more (financially speaking) to effect positive change in the world than the rest of us put together.

Here's hoping we can put aside our loathing long enough to recognize that the Gates Foundation is and will be saving and improving thousands if not millions of lives over the coming decades.

Re:Bill Gates is Evil, blah, blah, blah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17579116)

I have to agree with the previous poster. Regardless of what you think of Bill Gates as a businessman, as the head of one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world, the vaccinations and medications that their foundation is providing are saving lives, tangible, countable, human lives. These interventions cost unfathomable amounts of money, and in order to provide that this endowment will continue to save lives (among the numerous other non-medical grants they give out), they invest the money, making sound fiscal decisions that produce results in dollars and cents. Malaria vaccines and AIDS treatments aren't free, people.

Companies are neither good nor bad (1)

inverselimit (900794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578148)

They are complex entities with many activities, good and bad. The effects of their actions are also very complicated. Any company can be cast as doing good or doing evil depending on which chain of consequences you follow. Efforts on corporate reform should focus on incentives to align externalities with public aims, not judge each company thumbs up or thumbs down, which is ultimately futile.

Even more complex (2, Insightful)

gregor-e (136142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578524)

Even more complex than determining whether a particular investment is a net negative for a culture, is whether money spent in philanthropy provides a greater net gain for its target than simply investing in the economy of the region. One way to combat AIDS is to subsidize drugs for the afflicted. Another is to help the people of Africa create comparable wealth to that of G7 nations, so that AIDS treatment is as accessible for them as for us. Considerations of net good/harm often fail to consider secondary and tertiary effects. Like the banning of DDT, which (arguably) may have reversed the decline of some species, but demonstrably caused the deaths of millions of humans by increased malaria infection.

News Flash (2, Interesting)

billcopc (196330) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578894)

News Flash: There is no such thing as philanthropy anymore. This is just another form of lobbying. Does Kraft really need research funding when they already own half the shelf space in every grocery store and 7-11 in North America ? Kraft never helped anyone but its own damned self. What about 3M and their many innovations in the medical and engineering fields ? What about the OLPC project ? I could think of lots of places where research funding would benefit society at large.. Kraft and Ford are not on that list.

Damned if he does/doesn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17579066)

Bill Gates is criticized when he makes a fortune.
Bill Gates is criticized when he gives his fortune away.
Bill Gates cannot do anything correctly.
His race and his sex and his nationality are wrong, too.

You, on the other hand, have "got it down!"
You know all about TRUTH.
You know what is right and what is wrong.
You know what is moral and what is immoral.
You know what works and what does not work.

You know, without a doubt, how life ought to be.
The fact that it isn't is someone else's fault.
The fact that you are not rich is someone else's fault.
The fact that you can't get laid is someone else's fault.
The fact that you will be unable to change anything ever is someone else's fault.
In fact, your entire putrid uninteresting life is Bill Gates' fault.

Too bad.

Absolutely Right (1)

Trojan35 (910785) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579082)

It's very easy to point to something and say it's bad. It's very hard to come up with a better way.

On a side note:
If you recall, England and the US weren't great places to live during their industrial revolutions. Horrible working conditions, massive pollution, no social services. But would either country be where it is today if it hadn't?
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