Capital and good will: The world’s first trillionaire and the stories he tells

Dear Alejandro,

Bill Gates is on track to become the world’s first trillionaire.

In light of this fact, it is necessary to consider what meaning his capital-intensive philanthropic initiatives have. This article from The Rules does a good job at debunking several myths of the we-are-on-a-good-trajectory variety.

While Gates likes to say that poverty throughout the world has decreased since I was born (1990), this is based on the [sad, condescending, and risible] measure of $1.25 per day. If we slice the cake at $5 per day, which some people claim is still too low to claim non-poverty, then poverty has increased to the point that today 4 billion people are poor. That’s almost two thirds of people in your same species denied dignity.

The article goes on to explain that Gates likes to talk exclusively of the capital flows of charity, which go towards poor countries, while saying nothing of the flows of capital in the opposite direction (by means of debt service, tax avoidance, extraction activities, multinational operations, etc.) that dwarf the “development” contributions of wealthy nations.

Effectively, projects like the Gates Foundation are a nice whitewashing of the structures of global capitalism that are whisking resources and capital away from the poor and towards a tiny elite of which Mr. Gates himself is a glib member. I feel the same about the supposedly altruistic movements of Mark Zuckerberg. Real love of humanity would involve working to dismantle the structures that created the outlandish wealth of billionaires in a world embarrassingly shot through with poverty.

What I’ve described is merely cursory. Get a more detailed critique of Gates here: