Creative Capitalism?

In the August 11, 2008 issue of Time, Bill Gates wrote an article entitled “How to Fix Capitalism.”  This article was not about eliminating money, of course, but how companies can make more money.  Gates writes: “Creative capitalism isn’t some big new economic theory….It is a way to answer a vital question: How can we most effectively spread the benefits of capitalism and the huge improvements in quality of life it can provide to people who have been left out?”

His target is developing countries, not the widening gap between the haves and have-nots in America.  And the method is corporate philanthropy, supported by governments and non-profits.  As a result of this philanthropy, whether teaching or providing goods or services or providing economic assistance, the companies would be entering a new market, impressing new customers, offering their products, etc. and trying to make more money for themselves in the long run.  Gates also suggests providing PR regarding the corporate philanthropy as an incentive for companies to do good.  On paper, it looks rather good.  But I wonder if Gates has taken into account human nature?  And I don’t mean that of the people in the companies, but rather that of the governments of the countries he sees as the recipients of corporate largesse.

Actually, maybe I do mean the people in the corporations.  After all, American tobacco companies took their products overseas when the American market began to wither, although I don’t know if they included corporate philanthropy in their marketing plans.

Just as my idea to eliminate money would take a profound change in thinking and in beliefs, I think that governments of developing countries would need to change some of their behavior, beliefs and thinking.  Especially where corruption is a way of life, where humanitarian aid has historically never made it to the people who needed it.  I think Bill Gates means well, but it looks like his idealism and a certain naivete is showing a bit.  People are capable of great changes, great accomplishments, as well as great corruption and greed.  How would he guarantee that these efforts of corporate philanthropy would reach the people it is meant to reach? 

Having written that, I applaud him for taking the plunge and putting his ideas on paper.  They are serious ideas and worthy of attention and implementation.  And I suspect if he read my posts here about eliminating money, he’d probably have a good chuckle….


2 responses to “Creative Capitalism?

  1. Attending a lecture by Laurie Garrett (The Coming Plague, and other books), she had a pie-chart explainging the sources for global public health funding. This was Feb/Mar 2002. The World Health Organization, et al. The only figure I recall is that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the source for 2% of the entire world’s public health funding. Not just 2% of California, or 2% of the USA. 2% of the entire world.

    It’s the only time I’ve ever been glad that I’ve bought a Microsoft product.

    Of course, Garrett’s point was *not* the philanthropy of Gates, but the abysmal lack of serious funding by the political global leaders. Afterall, if one foundation, no matter how well endowed, and provide 2% of such funding, imagine how much more $ we would have for public health, if a nation added their serious weight to the matter?

    Like your thoughts of money, it will take an act of political will unimagineable to me in order to eliminate money. It will equally take an unimagineable act of will to simply make people do what it right. gotta go back to work, noise measurements are much less depressing. 🙂

  2. I defer to Bono when it comes to this sort of thing, Elizabeth. I think I read somewhere that he approaches world leaders with the notion of their self-interest, i.e. how will his request of them benefit them in some way? Or benefit the countries they lead? Or perhaps those countries’ businesses? To expect political leaders to think the same way as the Gates’ or even Warren Buffett who donated a giant chunk of his money to the Gates Foundation may be too much to ask of them because they must think of their political futures as well as the countries they lead.

    I think it’s great what the Gates’ are doing. But isn’t it too bad and incredibly sad that the conditions exist (have existed for a long time) that make such philanthropy necessary? That people in other countries as well as the U.S. do not have access to the resources they need for improved health and living conditions…because those resources cost money they don’t have…..

    I hope you’re back on a normal work schedule and you no longer must roll out of bed at 3 AM, Elizabeth. Bis spaeter…..

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