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….