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Microsoft The Almighty Buck

Gates Foundation Revokes Pledge to Review Portfolio 236

Posted by Zonk
from the no-pledge-no-problem dept.
NewsCloud writes "After the LA Times reported that the Gates Foundation often invests in companies hurting the very communities Bill and Melinda want to help, the Seattle Times reported the foundation planned 'a systematic review of its investments to determine whether it should pull its money out of companies that are doing harm to society'. Shortly after that interview, the Gates Foundation took down their public statement on this and replaced it with a significantly altered version which seems to say that investing responsibly would just be too complex for them and that they need to focus on their core mission: 'There are dozens of factors that could be considered, almost all of which are outside the foundation's areas of expertise. The issues involved are quite complex...Which social and political issues should be on the list? ... Many of the companies mentioned in the Los Angeles Times articles, such as Ford, Kraft, Fannie Mae, Nestle, and General Electric, do a lot of work that some people like, as well as work that some people do not like. Some activities might even be viewed positively by some people and negatively by others.'"
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Gates Foundation Revokes Pledge to Review Portfolio

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  • SRI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nelsonal (549144) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:16PM (#17577262) Journal
    Socially responsible investing is essentially impossible. Public companies are almost always too large and complex to boil down into a single binary good/evil decision matrix, and if one could, if investing in the evil company (for little direct benefit to the company by the way) you could do 25% more really good things (say 25% fewer malria cases or more clean drinking water in Africa, the moral calculus becomes quite complicated.
  • by HydroCarbon10 (40784) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:18PM (#17577296) Journal
    Ideologies unable to capture and model complexity of real life -- News at 10.

    Yawn.
  • Ethical revision (Score:4, Insightful)

    by soundvessel (899042) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:19PM (#17577328)
    Is a company not allowed to revise their statement? They are, by and large, stating fact here. The world is complex. An investment for a seemingly righteous cause is an investment in a contradictory cause in another area. Which cause do they choose?

    One might say that they have enough money to do both. To invest in all causes and cancel out the 'bad' by fueling all of the good and bad together.

    What level of abstraction is a foundation obligated to operate at? The Higher Goal, the Micromanaged Goal, or some blend in-between?

  • Which issues!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rodentia (102779) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:21PM (#17577376)

    Which social and political issues should be on the list?

    Perhaps the issues your foundation is ostensibly targeting? There might be some in-house expertise on those problems.

  • Re:SRI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daeg (828071) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:22PM (#17577394)
    Exactly. And as I said in the prior posts, if the Gates foundation isn't making money off of the evil corporations, someone will. At least with the Gates foundation, the money is going to treat disease, bring clean and renewable drinking sources, textbooks, etc, whereas if someone else, say, Mr. Trump were to invest, the money would go toward a useless condo tower or crappy TV show.

    It would be a different story if the foundation was using their money as investment capital to evil startup companies or backing radical governments. But they aren't.
  • by Bananenrepublik (49759) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:25PM (#17577464)
    Some activities might even be viewed positively by some people and negatively by others.
    This is precisely the reason why it would be important that they made a clear statement on which activities they see as positive / negative.
  • by RichMan (8097) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:26PM (#17577494)
    One simple step
    1) Start moving cash to companies that provide audits of their social actions.

    Once the money moves you can bet companies are going to start acting.

    As long as we say "it is not possible" and do not try it remains not done.
    But the only barrier is a lack of will power to commit.

  • by Sciros (986030) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:27PM (#17577508) Journal
    I'm sure the foundation could still put together some sort of panel to at least check off the companies invested in as "not 100% harmful" (or something along those lines). I'm sure some decisions regarding whether a company is doing enough good to outweigh the bad are too complex to bother with. But I do think some might not be too complex, and at the very least may reaffirm that the foundation's investments are admirable enough. Some companies, like BP, aren't pure evil. Some, like Sony BMG, totally are. (I don't actually know what companies the foundation invests in because I'm irresponsible like that.)
  • And one would think that the power of being the largest endowed charity in the world would cause those in charge of it to question their results. I'm disappointed, but not surprised. How much of a surprise is it, really, that it requires a different personality and approach to be a good humanitarian instead of a good businessman? Business is complex, but there's an impartial judge at the end, in little black numbers at the bottom. People, generally, do not live by little black numbers. Successful businessmen often do, and one of the fundamental problems with our system is that living this kind of life does not mean you play well with others.

    It is quite possible that the Gates Foundation, by being a completely passive investor with so much clout, will do more damage than good. Enough passive investment leads to completely profit-driven organizations, which tend towards running amok all over the people they get involved with.

    I now consider this a foundation built upon unstable, rotten ground.
  • by everphilski (877346) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:31PM (#17577572) Journal
    He benefits the world more in spending his time on his endowments than on wasting that time micromanaging his investments. Even if he had the time - or wasted the money to hire the legal help to assist him - to weed out the 'bad' companies from his portfolio there is no way to make everyone happy. Everyone has a different moral threshold. But what **is** beneficial to everyone is the endowments, and that is what the Gates' should be focusing on.
  • I'm confused (Score:3, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:32PM (#17577592) Homepage Journal
    Isn't the point of an organization such as this to determine where the money should go? If big companies are too complex to figure out, invest in the smallest companies that meet your goals. GE doesn't need your philanthropy. A small pharmaceutical that tries to provide cost-effective drugs to those in need does.

    The Gates foundation keeps many millions of dollars invested in public companies. But rather than riding the blue chips they could invest that money in local bonds or small companies that indirectly assist their goals.
  • Re:SRI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) <dylan@nospAM.dylanbrams.com> on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:36PM (#17577660) Homepage Journal
    That's BS. Companies watch their stock, and if more people are willing to buy it it goes up. Socially responsible investment means there is more demand and value for the stocks in the market which are responsible, and less for the companies which aren't. Passive and blind investment means that you are actively assisting in the misanthropic things going on.

    People trying to do good things can make money too, why not invest in them? It will end up helping them out, just a little, and you won't profit from destruction. I am amused by the idea that big companies are just too stupid to see everything they are doing, but it's partially an incentives thing - if you are going to lose a huge investor and the stock takes a 5 point hit because some nimwit dumped oil in a pond, you're more likely to fire him and prosecute to make an example.
  • by CyberLord Seven (525173) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:37PM (#17577670)
    No, it is not a joke.

    I remember a small story in the Bible that goes something like this:

    Jesus (pronounced HAY-ZEUS and means son of Zeus) was lounging around gathering contributions one day. There was a large crowd watching him. Some were donating money. Most were asking each other how a Hebrew could have such pale skin when the only people with pale skin in that region of the world were Romans and Greeks, and Jesus was neither. The long hair on his head was the cause of much speculation as well since, in that time and place, men wore their hair cut short. It was decided that the best way to find an explanation for these things was to ask Michelangelo and Pope Julius II della Rovere.

    Right about the time everyone realized Michelangelo and Pope Julius II della Rovere would not be born for another 1500 years, a loud, proud, rich man pushed through the crowd and stepped up to Jesus. With a large grin beaming across his face the man reached into the pockets of his leather Jordache(TM) jeans and pulled out a thick wad of greenbacks. From this he peeled off ten Benjamins and spread them on the table before Jesus. Jesus accepted the money and said a simple, "Thank you". This startled the man. With a look of surprise on his face he stepped back a bit and watched for a while. It was clear to the crowd that he had expected more.

    Within a few minutes some old, musty smelling broad came through the crowd. She quietly shuffled up to Jesus and gave him a single penny. Jesus smiled at the old woman, blessed her, and wished her well.

    Now the rich bastard that donated the Benjamins became angry...irate...pissed-off you might say. He stormed up to Jesus and got LOUD in Jesus' face. "I gave you a thousand dollars, muthafucka'! How come you blessed that bitch for her penny and didn't say shit to me?"

    The crowd drew back and sang a collective "Oooooh!" in fear of impending violence. A couple of instigators in the crowd shouted out things like, "You gonna' take that?", and "slap that hippy".

    Jesus was quick to his feet.

    He pimp-slapped the punk to the ground, put a foot on his neck and calmly explained to the fool, "You gave me a small portion of your wealth that you will not miss. That kind, gentle woman gave me everything she had in the world."

    I wonder why I think about that story everytime someone talks about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

  • well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:37PM (#17577678) Homepage
    On the one hand, Gates can come off as being greedy, and often times not practicing what he preaches. He basically seems to care about being rich.

    On the other hand, you could say Gates is a perfect example that our mutated form of capitalism can indeed work. The man basically started from scratch. Whether he stole ideas or not is irrelevant: the point is, he didn't do a single thing that no one else couldn't have done themselves.

    The difference is, he actually did it.

    Put aside your personal opinion of Microsoft for the moment, and look at what this man has accomplished. Starting from basically nothing, he has built a multi-billion dollar buisness which is used by roughly 90% of the computing world. I don't care how he got there, I don't care if someoen likes him or doesn't like him, I don't care what toes he stepped on to get there; there are a couple FACTS that you cannot deny regardless of your opinion:

    FACT: WE THE CONSUMERS created this monopoly. No one but the general consumers made this company a massive force in the computing world. They didn't magically pull money out of their ass; WE THE CONSUMERS gave it to them.

    FACT: There is NOTHING that Bill Gates has done that someone else couldn't do; he just did it first and best. Regardless of how he got to where he was, you cannot deny the fact that in terms of adoption rate, income, and market penetration, NOBODY is ahead of Microsoft right now. NOBODY.

    FACT: There is nothing stopping someone else from toppling Microsoft; Linux and Apple could do it...although I think Apple is in a better position to do so than Linux. Linux being open source actually kind of hurts Linux in this regard only because it makes it harder to get a definate measure of "success"; if I develop my own distro of Linux, it's not the same as your distro and thus is not the same operating system. But that's an entirely different conversation.)

    Whatever your opinion is of Microsoft and Bill Gates, you cannot deny that the man has accomplished something no one else has.

    Don't like it? Prove him to be horrible and change the opinion of hundreds of millions of people that use his product.
  • Re:SRI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:38PM (#17577698) Journal
    And as I said in the prior posts, if the Gates foundation isn't making money off of the evil corporations, someone will.

    And note that "evil", as defined in the original article, includes such things as providing high-paying jobs that allow workers to patronize prostitutes, and thereby contributing to teenage pregnancy.

    There's arguably a sane point to be made there, but the article takes it to a ludicrous extreme.

  • by Ironsides (739422) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:39PM (#17577710) Homepage Journal
    Some companies, like BP, aren't pure evil. Some, like Sony BMG, totally are.

    This view is, like anyones, based on your views and experience. (Mind you, I don't necessarily disagree, I'm just going to point out another viewpoint).

    The GW groups would probably consider BP pure evil as they pump and sell oil, regardless of anything else they do. Sony BMG, on the other hand, doesn't have any direct say in it so they wouldn't consider them evil.

    On the other hand, most of us on /. are anti-DRM, anti-RIAA and pro-It's MY Computer so we generally consider Sony BMG a negative force with BP being fairly decent with all them investing the oil profits into alternative energy schemes.

    Taking a Nuclear Power Plant can also be good or evil depending on your view. Energy free of CO2 emmissions or a Chernobyl waiting to happen.
  • Re:SRI (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:41PM (#17577736) Homepage
    Socially responsible investing is essentially impossible. Public companies are almost always too large and complex to boil down into a single binary good/evil decision matrix

    Not only that, a lot of people have started investing in blocks of things which relate to people's vices, because over time, those make a lot more money.

    Sadly, if you invest your money in alcohol, tobacco, fast food, and someone who makes fertilizer out of 3rd world babies, you will probbaly make more money than someone who invests in ethical funds. The rationale, is that as things go to poo, people turn to their vices.

    People's vices are a lot more reliable than their collective desire to do good, sadly. And, I believe quite a few brokers/investors have figured out you can capitalize on it.

    Cheers
  • Damn good point. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hypermanng (155858) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:41PM (#17577742) Homepage
    The matter of expertise is critical. Perhaps they could turn their assets over to some SRI management firm with the experience and knowledge necessary to undertake such a monumental task as trying to differentially calculate the social value of each company in which it invests... but that still leaves the problem of deciding what SRI firm's goal significantly match their own conception of social good, and so on.

    It's probably best that the foundation just lets its capital ride wherever the market takes it with its easy-to-read financial information while the foundation focuses on spending the proceeds on projects about which it knows a great deal.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:41PM (#17577748) Homepage Journal
    Aren't you being a little too harsh on a person who spent more than 1/3rd of his life's savings in philanthropy>

    What's HE going to do with billions of dollars?

    His point, as many would point out here, is that it is very difficult for an investor to invest only in companies to do no evil.

    And my point, as a rational person who has not been brainwashed and who understands english and demands a lack of hypocrisy would comprehend, is that if your stated goal is to improve the quality of life for people then you have a responsibility to DO the necessary research and only invest your money in companies which improve the net quality of life. Anything else is completely hypocritical. What you're saying is that it's hard to do good and make money at the same time. Well, what the fuck? I thought this was a philanthropic organization, not one designed to make money.

    Now the immediate reaction to that statement is that if they make more money, they can spend it to improve the quality of life. But clearly at least one company in which they have invested is harming people horribly. Can you really sit there and with a straight face tell me that the investors do not share the blame? The investors make it possible for these companies to exploit people. Period. Without them, the exploitation could not occur. And yes, we ALL have a RESPONSIBILITY to only invest in companies which match our morality. Otherwise, you are simply doing things that, well, you don't know what they are. Do you really find that to be acceptable?

    Many of the evils, say pollution etc, might be offset by the same company by providing jobs/shelter for many of the localities and much more importantly, transference of knowledge to the poor.

    And that makes it okay to pollute? To harm every inhabitant of the globe through pollution? To be making people in the area sick? You know why they don't care if they do it? Because people will still come to work for them because they're the only thing around. Does that make it right for them to produce such egregious pollution? Are you seriously going to make that argument? When the people working in the plant get sick and are simply replaced, with the previous employees kicked out on the street to die, is that justified by education? Is that justified by giving people jobs for which you pay them orders of magnitude less than the prevailing wage in other countries which are producing the same commodity? Let me share with you a couple of lines from a Bad Religion song called "Quality or Quantity":

    offer me eternity, and i'll trade a cup of coffee and a dime
    looking for a handout on behalf of those who have so little time
    but who wants to live on just 70 cents a day?
    padding your pockets doesn't make this a better place
    "cereal and water" is a feast for some you say
    your price-tag on existence can't cover your double face

    This says it better than I ever could.

  • Re:SRI (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bigpat (158134) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:45PM (#17577862)

    Socially responsible investing is essentially impossible. Public companies are almost always too large and complex to boil down into a single binary good/evil decision matrix, and if one could, if investing in the evil company (for little direct benefit to the company by the way) you could do 25% more really good things (say 25% fewer malria cases or more clean drinking water in Africa, the moral calculus becomes quite complicated.
    No, turns out that isn't it at all. Really it was because when they started out reviewing corporate activities, they started out by reading the corporate mission statements and the only one that even bothered saying they wouldn't be doing any evil was Google Inc... so by their new policy the Gates' foundation would have had to invest solely in Google and that was just going to look bad for everyone. That and the board of directors heard some grumbling about "...that Damn Google..." coming from Bill's office.

  • by RingDev (879105) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:50PM (#17577982) Homepage Journal
    In some cases it is just not possible.

    Lets say the GF is investing in a toxic spewing power plant in a 3rd world country. People could cry foul and demand that GF pull out their money. But if GF pulled their money out of that power plant, the medical center they invested in just 2 miles down the road wouldn't have stable electricity. With out medical care, the quality of life remains abysmal. Also with out the stable electricity that plant produces, local businesses would suffer and close. Unemployement would rise, and the local social situation would deteriorate even more. Many people would cry for a new clean burning power plant. But it could take a decade to get such a plant designed, cleared by the government, built and operational.

    And the PR would be impossible to manage. If you claim to be investing responsibly, and someone wants to take a shot at you, they can say "look at these liars, they claim innocence, yet spew toxic waste from their power plants." It makes a great sound bit, and can be easily spread and widely believed (People will believe anything if they either want it to be true, or fear it to be true). Spreading the truth of the situation would require your audience to take time to rationally think about the situation in a more broad scope. That is something that the 2000 and 2004 US elections have shown us to be a highly unlikely event.

    -Rick
  • Re:SRI (Score:4, Insightful)

    by will (6647) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:53PM (#17578026) Homepage
    Socially responsible investing is essentially impossible.

    Not impossible, just difficult, and isn't the whole point of the Gates Foundation to place money selectively in order to "reduce inequity and improve lives"? Now they're saying that putting money in the right place is a problem too hard to work out.

    Public companies are almost always too large and complex to boil down into a single binary good/evil decision matrix

    You're right, but the decision they've made here is much less complex than that. Nobody can objectively weigh up which is worse, BAT or BAe, but anyone can say "I'm not going to put my assets at the disposal of tobacco and arms companies". When someone like the Gates Foundation says that the pension funds and investment banks who channel all this money will take notice and offer an alternative. Instead, rather than thinking through the problem of how to do the greatest good with a huge pile of money, the Foundation has decided to seek the greatest possible return, regardless of the consequences, and do good later.

    Next thing you know, people will be using torture to fight for freedom. Oh, wait.

  • by Mateo_LeFou (859634) on Friday January 12, 2007 @03:00PM (#17578188) Homepage
    First the diehard lib says (btw, I'm a diehard lib) "if a company is harming society, the market will eventually shun that company and it will have to change its ways". Then, when someone suggests a shunning an evil company it's "look, if I don't make money of this, someone will..."

    Just seems like that invisible hand keeps getting more and more invisible..
  • Re:SRI (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday January 12, 2007 @03:10PM (#17578366) Homepage
    That's BS. Companies watch their stock, and if more people are willing to buy it it goes up.

    While that's true, it's also about as absurdly far as you can reduce the equation. People might be willing to buy the stock of a company because it's profitable, not caring why it's profitable. Maybe because even though that company is doing eveil things, people still want their products. Investment decisions are a lot colder and calculating in the real world.

    Socially responsible investment means there is more demand and value for the stocks in the market which are responsible, and less for the companies which aren't.

    That has always been the belief -- "if I invest in a responsible company, this will increase the demand for products from responsible companies, and I'll make money". While I applaud it as a noble sentiment (and one I generally try to endorse), it might be a bit naive to think that most people are motivated by ethical corporate behaviour.

    Passive and blind investment means that you are actively assisting in the misanthropic things going on.

    People might not just be passively/blindly investing in such companies. They may be doing it because of solid financials -- Acme Cocaine has had 25% revenue growth for each of the last 20 years, they have no liabilities, and huge cash reserves. Sometimes, it's a savvy investor who is deciding to buy such things.

    As I pointed out elsewhere in this thread, there are classes of investments called "Sin Funds" -- you pick companies which make money off people's vices, and make more in the long run than ethical funds have achieved yet. A lot of people are perfectly willing to say "damn the misanthropy, give me some cash!!", so they couldn't care less about the fallout of it.

    Cheers
  • Let me revisit the linked article again. Let's look at this paragraph:

    "Shareholder activism is one factor that can influence corporate behavior. The foundation is a passive investor because we want to stay focused on our core issues."

    Now let's look at this statement carefully because it very well may be the most important statement in the entire thing: it contains an admission that shareholder activism can influence corporate behavior but they want to be a "passive investor" (meaning you don't stand up for your beliefs, if indeed you have any) because... well, why? They want to stay focuses on their core issues? Apparently, the health of the people they claim they are trying to help is not a core issue for the Gates Foundation.

    How can any of you buy these bullshit arguments from the foundation? All you have to do is look at the literal meanings of the words they are using to realize that their words actually tell you the truth! But even more importantly, all you need do is look at their actions to tell you what they really believe. The old axiom about actions speaking louder than words is no less true in this instance than in any other. Immunizing people and then turning around and investing in a company that's killing them... well, I think that pretty clearly proves what's really going on here. I'm not trying to show that the foundation is malicious, I'm pointing out that they don't actually care about the people they claim they are trying to help. If they did they would be attacking this company for polluting these people's homes and their bodies.

    I've never really understood why people are so willing to protect the hypocrisy of others, but I'm pretty sure that it has something to do with their own hypocrisy... the people who say "Oh yeah, life is terrible in the third world" and then go out and buy a pair of Nikes that were made with what is effectively slave labor, assembled by a bunch of kids who sit around huffing the toxic glue fumes all day until their brain has the consistency of runny oatmeal, really have to defend corporate actions like these lest they be confronted with the realities of their own actions.

  • Even more complex (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gregor-e (136142) on Friday January 12, 2007 @03:18PM (#17578524) Homepage
    Even more complex than determining whether a particular investment is a net negative for a culture, is whether money spent in philanthropy provides a greater net gain for its target than simply investing in the economy of the region. One way to combat AIDS is to subsidize drugs for the afflicted. Another is to help the people of Africa create comparable wealth to that of G7 nations, so that AIDS treatment is as accessible for them as for us. Considerations of net good/harm often fail to consider secondary and tertiary effects. Like the banning of DDT, which (arguably) may have reversed the decline of some species, but demonstrably caused the deaths of millions of humans by increased malaria infection.
  • Re:SRI (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Friday January 12, 2007 @03:28PM (#17578700) Homepage

    Socially responsible investing is essentially impossible.
    Wow. What a great way to boil a vastly complicated subject down to a smug sound-bite. Are you going to deny the existence of socially responsible mutual funds, or are you going to claim that they're just run by people who aren't smart enough to share your opinion of their futility?

    Public companies are almost always too large and complex to boil down into a single binary good/evil decision matrix,
    Well, no. That's another absurd oversimplification. SCO, for example, is a publicly traded company. SCO is not really all that large and complex. SCO is in the software business. They don't sell macaroni and cheese, they don't drill oil wells, and they aren't providing financial services in Kazakhstan.

    You might also want to study a little of history. For instance, US divestment [wikipedia.org] from companies doing business in South Africa is generally agreed to have been a contributing factor in the downfall of apartheid.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday January 12, 2007 @03:34PM (#17578802) Homepage Journal
    See, if that company doesn't pollute, some other company will.

    Oh, so that makes it okay? As long as someone else would have done it, you can consider your hands to be clean?

    The message I'm getting from you (and those who moderated me as a troll, when I clearly believe what I am saying) is that morality is a useless concept. I don't feel that it is. I feel that some things are just wrong and that lying is one of them, and investing in companies that knowingly and avoidably harm people is another. Yeah, some guy might rob a bank with or without me, does that mean I should volunteer to help him carry the bags of cash to his car in exchange for a tip? Because that is an excellent metaphor for what's happening here. They're cashing out from the earth and harming people in the process, and the Gates Foundation is helping them do it. That doesn't sound very benevolent to me.

    Bribes are rampant and nobody gives a heck about environment. The people there are concerned about their day-to-day survival. A very high percentage of them. They do not live usually long enough to feel the effects of it. People die young, and so they have much higher tolerance for pollution.

    What? People die young in part because of pollution, and the changes to their lifestyle brought on by unscrupulous capitalists who feel that it is appropriate to take advantage of the people's economically-depressed status in order to make money off of their suffering. It doesn't sound so nice when you put it that way, does it? The simple reality is that it is entirely possible for these companies to make obscene profits while still improving the quality of life.

    In fact this brings up an excellent point that I look forward to raising in future conversations about cancer rates; many argue that cancer rates have climbed primarily because longetivity has increased. I cannot agree at all with this premise. There are indigenous peoples all over this planet who were regularly living for over a hundred years before the coming of the industrial age; in fact the Pomo peoples, Native Americans who live in a fairly restricted and secluded area of North America, fall into this category. Yet today their lifespans have been sharply reduced and cancer rates appear to be comparable to the rest of the population. This area used to be something of a beautiful natural paradise with several native species of oaks and practically absurd quantities of wildlife. Then ranchers came in and besides beginning to exterminate Pomos (I actually live in a town, Kelseyville, which is named after a man who with the assistance of his family enslaved, murdered, and raped large numbers of Pomo people) they also destroyed the land here and made large portions of it incapable of supporting a population that does not use organized agriculture.

    Okay so that was a bit of a rant but the point is that industrialization is primarily responsible for both the improvement in the quality of life in the developed world, and the reduction in quality of life everywhere else, both for the pollution itself and the fundamental inequalities it made possible. Cancer rates doubled during the industrial revolution, and people have been quick to say that the increase in lifespan which occurred around the same time is primarily responsible, and I held that view myself until recently. Lifespans over 100 years are fairly common amongst rural villagers in China, in spite of (or perhaps because of - my mother was almost killed by a drug interaction recently) their poor access to modern medicine. The rapidly-moving industrialization of China will be a telling "experiment" in the effects of technology on the peoples of the world.

    Now at least we know that the money that they make through this is at least going to help the people in that country. And that, I guess is the most important thing.

    No, we don't know that. Vaccines don't really help people dying of respiratory failure.

  • by Prophet of Nixon (842081) on Friday January 12, 2007 @04:02PM (#17579368)
    You seriously need to write your own Bible translation/version.
  • by MyNymWasTaken (879908) on Friday January 12, 2007 @04:16PM (#17579766)
    Stow the righteous indignation and try to think for a second.

    The rich man was chastised for giving "only a small amount" because he expected to blessed for his show of philantropy. Hw wasn't showing good will, he was attempting to surreptiously purchase grace.
  • Re:SRI (Score:4, Insightful)

    by multimediavt (965608) on Friday January 12, 2007 @07:50PM (#17583580)

    People might be willing to buy the stock of a company because it's profitable, not caring why it's profitable.

    Are you kidding me!?!?! That's almost a *textbook* example of why what the Gates Foundation is doing wrong. It's investing without any moral grounds. The Gates Foundation is *supposed* to be a philanthropic (definition: seeking to promote the welfare of others, esp. by donating money to good causes; generous and benevolent) organization addressing the ills of modern society. Their investment strategy and attitude behind it is COMPLETELY counter to the very mission of philanthropy! At best what they are doing is creating/perpetuating one evil while back handedly curing another. It's not only socially irresponsible it's completely egregious behavior. What their investment manager is saying is that it's ok to kill everyone on the planet by investing in environmentally and socially irresponsible companies as long as we shore up the population with bare minimum human needs, i.e., housing, clean water, medicine, etc. through transparent attempts to make themselves look good.

    That has always been the belief -- "if I invest in a responsible company, this will increase the demand for products from responsible companies, and I'll make money". While I applaud it as a noble sentiment (and one I generally try to endorse), it might be a bit naive to think that most people are motivated by ethical corporate behaviour.

    We're not talking about an individual with $100,000 investing for his retirement here. You are trying to poke holes in an argument with the wrong frame of reference. We're talking about an investment house (Gates Foundation) with BILLIONS of dollars at its finger tips to invest. When you throw that kind of money around you damn well better believe it will shift the market away from socially, environmentally, and morally deficient public corporations. This isn't some day trader with a credit card. This is a seriously large investment powerhouse with supposed good intentions programs to fund with its ROI that is essentially doing absolutely nothing good. Why? Because the money they are giving to these unethical and irresponsible corporations is a lot bigger than the piddly returns (at best 30% annually) they are using to fund the good things the foundation is supposed to be doing. WAKE UP!

    People might not just be passively/blindly investing in such companies. They may be doing it because of solid financials -- Acme Cocaine has had 25% revenue growth for each of the last 20 years, they have no liabilities, and huge cash reserves. Sometimes, it's a savvy investor who is deciding to buy such things. As I pointed out elsewhere in this thread, there are classes of investments called "Sin Funds" -- you pick companies which make money off people's vices, and make more in the long run than ethical funds have achieved yet. A lot of people are perfectly willing to say "damn the misanthropy, give me some cash!!", so they couldn't care less about the fallout of it. Cheers

    Cheers?!?! Choke on it! You have voiced a platform of blind greed and I hope that you and your progeny suffer for it because I'm sure the rest of the world will if people keep thinking the way you have described. Thank goodness there are real people actually trying to do good in this world. I don't believe for a second that the Gates Foundation is at all sincere about doing any real good. They seem to be perpetuating everything that's absolutely wrong not only with the way people invest, but how they view the world.

    BTW, I don't give a flying flip if you mod this down. This guy I replied to is not the least bit insightful. He's about as myopic and self centered as they come...wait, topped maybe by the Gates Foundation. FUCK them too!
  • by Cervantes (612861) on Friday January 12, 2007 @09:10PM (#17584436) Journal

    "Aren't you being a little too harsh on a person who spent more than 1/3rd of his life's savings in philanthropy
    Yeah, and stealing from the poor and middle class (via Microsoft) is a great way to get that money in the first place.

    It also ignores the fact that he's wastes more resources on frivolous personal expenses than most people will ever see in a lifetime.
    Holy shit on a stick man, get off your soapbox! First off, there was no "stealing", people willingly gave their money for a product. Secondly, if anything, years of super-lax anti-pirating measures made MS give more to the poor than it ever got. I can't think of many homeless people waiting outside in the line so they could be the first to buy Windows 98 First Edition. And thirdly, if you make the money, you're allowed to spend the money! I've "wasted more on frivolous personal expenses" than most 3rd world folks will ever see in a lifetime... hell, if you've bought a computer you've spent more than a lot of people on this planet will ever make in a lifetime.

    None of that changes the fact that in terms of percentage, BG has given more money than the vast majority of people (I sure as hell haven't given 1/3 of my money to charity) and also in terms of absolute dollars, he's given a contribution to society that rivals the amount that some nations have put out. Now, while you may not agree with the fine details of exactly how he went about his business transactions, the fact is that he built his own business, made lots of money that middle and upper class people willingly gave to him, and then instead of giving it all to his kids or building his own private space station, or giving it to some huge inefficient charity (United Way, anyone?), he makes his own organization dedicated to fixing many of the overlooked wrongs in the world. And you know what, if the price of that world-changing event is that he takes a few hundred million to build himself a house embedded in a hill with all sorts of cool gizmos... well, fuck you, he worked damn hard for 30 years, he's giving back more to society in percentage and gross than you or I or 99.999% of the world ever could or would, and he doesn't even have to do it, he's doing it because he wants to.

    Don't go spewing stupid shit like "he stole from the poor and middle class". This isn't the 1900's, he's not an oil tycoon or a land stealer ... he helped make a product that lots of people want, and he made lots of money off of it, and now he's giving back, not to the people who helped him become rich, but to the people who don't have a hope in hell of ever owning a computer in the first place.

    Yes, I'll get -1 Troll for defending BG on Slash, but seriously folks, it's bullshit like this that makes us look like raving lunatics to the rest of the world, and it's bullshit like this that stops us from getting taken seriously. Grow the fuck up and get some sense of scale and priority, wouldya?
  • Re:SRI (Score:3, Insightful)

    by killjoe (766577) on Friday January 12, 2007 @11:41PM (#17586070)
    "Really? Nike, Shell Oil, McDondald's, Tobacco companies, Haliburton .... all of these are companies which are (arguably) not good global citizens. "

    I didn't say that nobody invests in them or that they are not evil, I simply stated that I am amazed that it happens. In a country in which 90% of the people believe in god and over 70% profess to be xtians no less.

    "Doing good, or doing good for yourself have frequently been viewed as opposing goals. They don't need to be, they're just perceived as such."

    By the great moral thinkers of our time. People like Jesus, Budha, as well as all the great moral philosophers of the western world. For a couple of thousand years western world has evolved a set of ethics and morals and adam smith single handedly destroyed all of it by elevating greed and profit to be the highest virtues of mankind.

    "Well, to quote a source that eludes me at the moment ... "the smartest thing the devil ever did was convincing the world he doesn't exist""

    The Usual Suspects.

    "Altruism is a nice goal, and certainly an admirable one. But, the world isn't really set up in such a way as those doing altruistic acts always come out ahead."

    That's right. It's set up in a capitalistic manner.

    "Don't let all of that dissuade you from trying to do ethical things. Just don't expect that those will always be the route to prosperity or maximizing return on investment. Do your good things, and don't look for a reward in this lifetime. The rest, well, that will have to sort itsself out over time. =)"

    I think you miss my point. My point is that capitalism, the accumulation of wealth, greed, covetousness, pride etc are all inherently immoral and that no good can come out of them. Capitalism has destroyed and laid to waste all of our great moral philosophers. I am sure all those great moral thinkers are now spinning in their graves.

The F-15 Eagle: If it's up, we'll shoot it down. If it's down, we'll blow it up. -- A McDonnel-Douglas ad from a few years ago

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