The Microsoft founder discusses his role in the world as a person who amassed a giant collection of wealth.
When Bill Gates, the billionare and former CEO of Microsoft (MSFT) – Get Free Report commented about ethics on Reddit Jan. 13, people listened.
He spoke, on his Ask Me Anything thread, on a wide range of topics.
One wonders, what does a billionaire care about the world he or she lives in? A skeptic would say they don’t need to. But there might be some other thoughts.
Perhaps a philanthropist actually feels, given the wildly outlandish place they find themselves in, how to make the world a finer place in which to live.
There may not be a better example than Gates when considering this discussion.
So What Is Bill Gates Thinking About?
Gates was asked about his interest in farms.
“I have invested in these farms to make them more productive and create more jobs. There isn’t some grand scheme involved — in fact, all these decisions are made by a professional investment team,” he said, according to Entrepreneur.
Then, Gates commented about wealth in general, and hinted at the burden of wealth.
“In terms of the very rich, I think they should pay a lot more in taxes and they should give away their wealth over time,” he said. “It has been very fulfilling for me and is my full-time job.”
“I am surprised taxes have not been increased more,” he continued. “For example, capital gains rates could be the same as ordinary income rates. I know things are tough for a lot of people.”
This sounds like a person who is invested in the interests of the global community and is venturing into a public policy debate. And one who is humble about his accumulated wealth.
Then he talks specifically about ethics, and why a billionaire should be mindful about their place in the world of finance and capitalism.
“Being rich can easily make you out of touch,” he says. “The incentive to create new companies is still a good thing I think. Even if taxes go up I still wouldn’t ban anyone from being worth a billion, but that is just one opinion. I have been very lucky.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
A big part of Gates’ post-Microsoft life has been running a foundation to promote health and welfare in parts of the world that need it.
“For over 20 years, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been committed to tackling the greatest inequities in our world,” the foundation’s website says. “We can’t achieve our goals on our own. We work together with businesses, government, and nonprofits, and each partner plays a specific role in accelerating progress.”
This type of engagement in ethics and world affairs has a pretty good back story. Gates says he told his father about eight words that changed his life with the stroke of a pen.
“One day, we read a newspaper article about millions of children in poor countries who die from diseases, such as diarrhea and pneumonia, that were easily treated in wealthier countries,” the foundation says on its website. “That blew our minds. As new parents it hit us especially hard. If there’s anything worse than the death of a child, we said to each other, then surely, it’s the preventable death of a child.”
The eight words? “Dad, maybe we can do something about this.”