Reason First: Is Bill Gates the Most Selfish Altruist?
The duality of rational self-interest and selflessness characterize the second wealthiest man in the world.
Briefly in 1999, William “Bill” Gates’ net worth surpassed the one hundred billion dollar mark. Now, 20 years later, he’s become a centibillionaire yet again. From his one percent ownership in Microsoft to Cascade Investments, Mr. Gates has amassed this great fortune due to his keen business mind. But he seemingly doesn’t care about all of the money. He is only behind Jeff Bezos in terms of wealth accumulation. But he still doesn’t care about that. He is a philanthropist who through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given away tens of billions of dollars. This is not to aid the homeless in his home state of Washington, and in particular the city of Seattle, but people thousands of miles away in the jungles of Africa.
His greedy, selfish, business mindedness that drove him and sustained him throughout his tenure seems to have subsided. Sure, he possesses over 100 billion dollars in wealth, but that is apparently not what most concerns him. What animates him is his ability to cut deals and explore new paths to support burgeoning businesses. In discussions about creating, building, and making modern technologies, Gates lights up like a cityscape at night.
When he talks about “saving” villages in the Dark Continent from malaria, his enthusiasm wanes. Because of the selfless, altruistic code that he has chosen to mix with the self-interested business side, Gates is torn into two. On one hand, he is eager to retain his fortune all while giving it away to charity. By being one of the creators of the (guilt) Giving Pledge, which encourages billionaires to give at least half of their fortune away, Gates has further made a dichotomy in his own psyche. It's okay to offer funds to those who are worthy of it, but to guilt trip some of the most productive people in the world to give alms sacrificially is abhorrent. While only he and his psychiatrist can determine the psychological implications that could result from the split in ideals, it ought to be stated that he stood as the aggressive captain of the USS Microsoft.
His earnings reflect that he continues to make money, but with him relinquishing it, there is great difficulty in discerning whether all of the selflessness is catching up to Gates. He still lives in a multi-100-million-dollar mansion. He flies personal jets and that net worth continues to soar. So what? Is he supposed to take African babies and move them into his house? Is he now obligated to fly the destitute to Prague, Monaco, and Hong Kong? Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has stated that a system that produces billionaires is immoral. This vile knock against capitalism and the free market system is aimed at immensely productive individuals like Gates. Does he think that her comments are off base? It doesn’t appear that way. Gates is caught between being an exceptional businessman and a dedicated altruist. Much of this is a result of the anti-trust goons waving their fingers at Mr. Gates, trying to tell him how to run his business.
It’s a testament to the idea of not becoming too big. Google, Facebook, Amazon, McDonald’s, Apple, Starbucks, and Walmart—just to list a few—have been the target of schemes, scams, conspiracies, fights over minimum wages, other controversies, and a whole host of negative campaigns. This is not because they are life-ruining, dastardly companies, but because they are beautiful. Envious factions hate to see corporations provide goods and services at reasonable prices and improve lives.
For figures like Bill Gates, this is a source of severe discomfort. He has given the world—billions of people—the ability to work, play, and connect. What are his thanks? That he be maligned for his prodigious output and insightful capability in the boardroom. Gates is caught in a web that he built himself. He has allowed the crooks to steal at least part of his joy. Yet, he still may have the coup de grace. As Cascade Investments nets him billions more dollars, he still holds onto his home, the Codex Leicester, and other “quiet money,” or money that is is legal, but still not publicized—that Bloomberg or Forbes or anyone else will never know about.
Gates believes that he should pay taxes out of a sense of guilt. For anyone who has generated a fortune like Gates, they—along with anyone who has produced modest amounts of money—should pay zero taxes. Gates paid his “fair share” when he first set out to establish Microsoft. He started that company with the idea that he would be compensated for his profound efforts. Mr. Gates deserves every cent that he has generated. His placement at number two on the centibillionaire list isn’t so bad either. Let’s hope that he appreciates it.