The Case Against Bill Gates

When Bill Gates left Microsoft in 2006, he left as one of the most famous business leaders in
history. By 2006 he had turned Microsoft into a titan of industry and was synonymous with
wealth. Now firmly within the global development business Gates, along with his wife Melinda
and fourth richest man in the world Warren Buffet run the Gates Foundation.
The much publicised Gates Foundation is the most charitable organisation in the world. From
issues of agriculture, global health and economic development Gates has turned himself into
‘the Bill Gates of philanthropy’. His organisation alone gives more than quadruple the amount of
dollars to global health initiatives then the WHO, a body tasked with that exact role.
While it is hard to doubt the good Gates has done, there is a case to make for scepticism at the
best, and rage at the worst at his affect on global issues. Much like his time in Microsoft Gates
has used his position to bully his agenda onto a global stage. The going ethos of the foundation
is the market friendly use of science and technology to reduce poverty around the world.
Projects around the world aimed at ending poverty have been shown to put market friendliness
ahead of poverty alleviation, more often than not.
The much touted efforts of the foundation in the field of global health has been the vaccination
of the world’s poor. Polio is on its way to extinction, to the praise of many. While this is a great
feat many health scholars add that money put towards strengthening health networks and
structural issues would save many more lives.
In fairness finding a vaccine or selling fertilisers is much easier than affecting systems. It may be
rather impossible that Gates could affect structural change. Another facet is the way in which aid
is given. Gates as a businessman is smart enough to see an opportunity. Many of the vaccines,
agricultural products and other private partnerships are in part owned by Gates. By giving them
contracts he in essence enriches himself. This is enough to at least question why Gates
chooses certain strategies and firms.
Microsoft earlier and the foundation now work heavily to strengthen intellectual property rights
not just in developing nations, but in the US too. International agreements like TRIPs were
largely Gates’ efforts to ensure governments and other businesses could not recreate lifesaving
drugs at cheaper costs. On top of increasing prices on people and governments it also insulates
an industry from global competition. Ensuring the need for western companies in developing
A test on an HPV vaccine within India is being connected to sick girls in schools that took part in
a study funded by the foundation. Unfortunately a few of those girls even died. Afterwards no
steps were taken to assess the problem and all parties still work together closely. These are
scenarios the world knows little about because the Gates Foundation is surprisingly coy, having
no need for accountability and transparency.
With a budget larger than many nations the Gates Foundation holds extreme say over global
discourse. The real issue is that unlike most entities the foundation has little to no oversight,
given the largess of the group it is fair to say they can in fact move global events at will.
Something so big needs to be properly accountable. The UN was made to allow democratic
voices especially to the poorest nations, considering the IMF and World Bank it is one vote per
country. As the foundation throws its weight around it commands issues on poverty, health and
other poverty alleviation strategies.
It is hard to speak on Mr. Gates’ true intentions, maybe he genuinely believes his way is the only
way, maybe he (much like his Microsoft days) is using the philanthropy shtick to increase his
wealth and those of his friends. Most likely Gates is trying to have his cake and eat it too. Help
others in a way that he considers win-win. Whether you believe Gates and his foundation are
necessary or in need of change we can all agree more needs to be known about a group that
controls the conversation so fully, funding papers, think tanks, politicians and initiatives.

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