Bill Gates, Africa, and Crusaderist Charity
A knee-jerk suspicion of charity is only natural for anyone who’s studied economics; time and time again we’ve seen instances where it does far more for the Egos of the Donors, than the Welfare of the Recipients. Recently Hpx83 focused his sights upon Bill Gates in a pair of articles, and noted how the man’s actions almost suggest a desire to buy his way into Heaven:
Now, I’m fully willing to accept that the Bill Gates charity-work comes from a genuine wish to help people and that maybe he just has a different view of the economics of it all. In that case, he mostly just needs a class in austrian economics, although I would say that when billionaires engage in drives to shame other billionaires into donating more to charity (again – Warren Buffet anyone?) one occasionally starts to wonder what their real motives are.
Hpx83 is quick to point out – and I hasten to agree – that it’s impossible for us to know the man’s heart, and anything we say about him is speculative. Bill Gates is merely a useful data point – an example of the pattern we see throughout the upper caste, the desire of millionaires and the children of the elite to be Socially Conscious.
Just another form of the Captain’s Crusaderism.
There seems to be some sort of underlying guilt in these people, as if they’d won their wealth through the dark methods as Rodion Raskolnikov, but without a Sonya nor a Petrovich to confess their (imagined?) crimes to. Bereft of penance, they must bring their guilt to the world stage. The result? Banquet halls full of mosquitoes instead of hair shirts.
There are plenty of rumours – if you care to look – about Gates’ ruthless business practices, but if he stands out from other successful entrepreneurs, I fail to see how. True, we live in a manipulated world of Corporate Welfare, but if anything Microsoft seems to have been more honest than most under Gates’ leadership. Their market dominance has as much to do with providing a great product, as it does with strategic maneuvering through stormy waters.
If anyone can be said to have earned their wealth it’s Bill Gates; and in true Austrian fashion he provided Us with far more benefit than his paltry billions would suggest. He’s a man who changed the world for the better; who made computing accessible and reliable, refining concepts and standardizing formats. He was a man born in the Right Place, at the Right Time, who chose the Right Actions.
So what’s he been up to since he retired?
Millions wasted on Crusaderist Charity.
A large part of his focus is on Africa – not the benevolent sort of focus that you got with Colonialism, but the self-aggrandizing sort that most often takes the form of $30/month to Sponsor a Child. The malaria issue: cajoling other millionaires into spending vast sums of money tilting at windmills, building a vast Rube Goldberg machine, administered by the UN , when we already have a proven and workable solution, which we refuse to adopt:
As malaria surges once again in Africa, victories are few. But South Africa is beating the disease with a simple remedy: spraying the inside walls of houses in affected regions once a year. Several insecticides can be used, but South Africa has chosen the most effective one. It lasts twice as long as the alternatives. It repels mosquitoes in addition to killing them, which delays the onset of pesticide-resistance. It costs a quarter as much as the next cheapest insecticide. It is DDT.
Ah, but this is too blunt, and too easy for the Crusader – they need to feel like they worked and sacrificed for a solution. Money needs to slosh through the pipes, committees need to be formed, there needs to be a demonstration of Social Awareness – after all, what’s the point of charity if nobody sees you do it?
This focus on Malaria is just plain silly; it speaks to the man’s own ignorance, showing that he should not steward this cause which he champions. But some of his other causes are worse than silly; they’re Downright Destructive.
I’m speaking, of course, about the African Circumcision Advisory Committee – an organization which Gates supports. AVfM has done some great work covering this in detail, but the reason the whole “Circumcisions to prevent AIDS” thing is such a bad idea can be summarized in three points:
- It doesn’t work. The evidence that circumcision prevents HIV transmission is specious, and the claimed benefit is minor.
- It’s Africa, and their healthcare is second-rate: children regularly die in the West from circumcision-related infections, the numbers in the Sub-Sahara are going to be horrific.
- It’s Africa, and magical thinking is the norm: there are already reports of African men getting circumcised so that they “don’t need to wear condoms anymore.”
(As an aside – when you consider high levels of HIV in Africa, the ineffectiveness of condoms over time, and how difficult it is for a straight man to contract it [thus implying hundreds of HIV+ partners prior to infection] – the Pope’s solution starts sounding pretty reasonable.)
With his charity work, Bill Gates is building a Structural Death Machine.
From a strictly moral framework, Bill Gates is no worse than those “helping” Africa by supporting a (frequently fictitious) Adopt-A-Child – his financial clout just increases the effect. It’s a larger-than-life example of what happens when hubris leads a man to try and save a world he doesn’t understand.
Charity begins at home; with your family, your friends, you community – Your Community! – this is the part most frequently misunderstood.
What is Bill Gate’s community?
Here is a man who’s revolutionized the computing industry; who’s intuitive operating system can be put onto a one-hundred dollar computer, and shipped to an African village to introduce the natives to advanced, Western-style thinking. To educate them, and open up a world they never would have seen. To allow them to create their own solutions, instead of relying upon this half-assed Colonialism the West so seems to love these days.
Bill Gates has reached the Autumn of his life, and he’s earned his retirement; a retreat from the active struggles of a man in his prime, to spend his time reflecting and passing on sage wisdom. He could be engaging with the next generation of computing geniuses, setting up schools and institutes, or – if he insists on helping Africa – aiding them in developing a real computing infrastructure.
Bill Gates has a long reach, and all of the computing world is his community.
But instead of being the greatest version of himself, of accepting the Natural Law of Austrian Economics, of remaining humbly in the community where his expertise has merit, he pursues Humanitarian Greatness. He seeks excellence in a realm he doesn’t understand, and presumes to dictate how others will live.
All for their benefit, of course.
His reach exceeds his grasp, and many will suffer for this. An object lesson to us all.