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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.
    • Re:SRI (Score:4, Funny)

      by Life2Short (593815) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:21PM (#17577374)
      Yeah, I hear what you're saying, but come on, that 20% share of Acme Land Mines...
      • Re:SRI (Score:5, Funny)

        by Chris Mattern (191822) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:35PM (#17577656)
        > Yeah, I hear what you're saying, but come on, that 20% share of Acme Land Mines.

        Well, most of happens to that coyote is his own damn fault.

        Chris Mattern
        • by asliarun (636603)
          On top of it, they decide to hedge their investment by buying 10% of FootLocker.

        • Re:SRI (Score:4, Funny)

          by ozbird (127571) on Friday January 12, 2007 @03:51PM (#17579168)
          Well, most of happens to that coyote is his own damn fault.

          ... which is why the Road Runner cartoon could never be remade today. The first minute or so would show Wile E. Coyote doing something sneaky and getting hurt; the rest of the cartoon would show his lawyer suing Acme Corporation, the Road Runner, the truck/train/bus driver and/or society for the harm caused to his client.
    • 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.
      • Re:SRI (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) <dylan&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.
        • 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
          • I stopped believing in the market being rational years ago. Approximately 1999, to be exact. All I've got left is my naivete and knowledge of basic economics; give people money and they will continue doing what they are doing, don't give them money and they may try to impress you.
          • 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!
        • People trying to do good things can make money too, why not invest in them?

          Because it's vanishingly difficult, and Gates basically says it's a fool's errand, to figure out who the "good" companies are. Announcing that you have Gates' money and are looking for "good" companies is a sure way to get scammed. All kinds of "good" companies will pop up with a business plan who will end global hunger and bring peace to Africa through new, safe technology. Then, after they get the money, they mysteriously disapp
      • 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.

      • whereas if someone else, say, Mr. Trump were to invest, the money would go toward a useless condo tower

        Mr. Trump may be building for the rich, but he's keeping thousands of contractors busy for many years. In the suburbs of NYC his investments have drastically improved the local economy and raised the values of lower income housing. And that's before he's even built anything.

        I don't like Donald Trump, but just as with some of the companies the Gates foundation invests in, there are positives.
      • 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..
    • Perfect example; Is a company that makes DDT good or bad?
      • by arivanov (12034)
        Loaded question. Especially in Bhopal.
        • by rah1420 (234198)
          I see your point, except my pedantic nature forces me to point out that methyl isocyanate has pretty much nothing to do with DDT (from everything that I've read.)
    • by rednip (186217) *

      I agree mostly, but when one can clearly define a boundary, such as apartheid, or ties to a ruthless regime, it can be a tool, if people 'gang up' on this boundary. However that is rarely the case, you might have noticed that people rarely agree in such great numbers.

      Personally I'm an 'armchair environmentalist' but I believe that we/they need better laws to regulate pollution, so that all companies operate from a similar waste management cost structure and that responsible companies don't suffer a compet

      • Re:SRI (Score:5, Informative)

        by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:55PM (#17578070)
        Actually, companies discovered something interesting after the anti-pollution laws were passed in the sixties and seventies (I'm not sure when they actually noticed this. When companies reduced pollution, they made greater profit. It turns out that the best way to reduce pollution is to turn "pollution" (i.e. waste) into product. Oftentimes a product that the company didn't make before. The point is pollution is waste, the less you waste the more money you make. I suspect a similar principle applies to behavirs that are truly evil, the less you do them the more profitable you will be (everything else being equal).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705)

      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 e

      • by bcrowell (177657)

        because over time, those make a lot more money,
        Well, no, in general, socially responsible mutual funds have returns that are very similar to the returns of index funds. Actually you only have to own a surprisingly small number of stocks before your stock portfolio basically starts to follow the market indices very closely. That's one of the reasons that actively managed, diversified mutual funds are a total scam; in general, the only way you can do significantly better or worse than the market indices is

        • by nelsonal (549144)
          There are socially responsible funds of all sorts (some conservative ones don't own cable or phone companies because they mint money selling porn to hotels). One of the many replies said it better than I could, essentially there are too many different opinions on what's ok and what's reprehensible that aside from a mass boycott (like Apartid, there won't be any difference either way).
    • by Yartrebo (690383)
      Then stay out of the stock market. Countries are much easier to rank, so they could buy the public debt of countries. There's also municipal debt that can be purchased.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bigpat (158134)

      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 of

    • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bcrowell (177657)

      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 oversimplificati

      • by nelsonal (549144)
        Unless the investors are a tiny number of nuns pensions or something, then SRi really doesn't make sense. The funds exist because a portion of investors "feel better with that label." I'd say that the investors succumbed to clever marketing.
        I should have qualified the first statement with when you have $70 billion dollars to invest, the universe of public companies available to you are all exeedingly complex and almost all of them have something that offends a portion of people out there. They can't
    • OK, it's not quite the classic example but I think it works:

      You buy a machine to manufacture widgets and as a by-product, it flings heavy iron balls of scrap out. Now it costs money to fix it so the iron balls just don't fling around and smash windows. But if the owner of the machine merely uses some of his profits to replace the broken windows of his neighbors, then that's good then, right?

      That was the point of the LA times article: if those companies were NOT behaving like that, the foundation wouldn't
    • by bill_kress (99356)
      With the kind of money that foundation has, you'd think they might have an alternate focus group that invests in these companies then tries to manipulate the board of directors/stockholder voting away from bad/evil/whatever practices.
    • by Kismet (13199)
      The problem with this kind of philanthropy is the idea that money can solve humanity's problems. It is charity based on moneyism, so naturally there needs to be a lot of money involved. This can only be possible with prudent business investments. Ultimately, the organization serves the capital in the hopes that the capital will then benefit the poor.

      What is the benefit to the poor? It is relief from the symptoms of poverty. At what cost? At the cost of promoting business interests. Is this a bad thing? It i
    • by jackbird (721605)
      How about marketing infant formula to rural poor in developing countries [breastfeeding.com] who don't have access to the clean water they'd need to actually use the stuff responsibly. It's pretty clear cut that Nestle is doing significant overt harm to exactly those communities the foundation is trying to help.
  • 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?

    • by Yartrebo (690383)
      It's called flip flopping and indicates a probable lie. A few days ago their PR image was hurting, so they said whatever was needed to make it look good again. When they revise it so soon after adopting it, it certainly makes one wonder if they ever intended to go through with it in the first place.
      • Ooh, yeah. That makes sense. Maybe they made a rash decision and then looked at it again and realized it couldn't really be done. That's just plain EVIL.

        You're a jackass. Your uber geeky dweeb glasses that paint anything MS as negative are making you behave ridiculously. The most logical assumption is they made a quick release with full intention of doing it (they're a charity, what possible motive can you provide for them wanting to do "evil"). Then they realized they couldn't, after more investigat

    • 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
  • 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.

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

      by hypermanng (155858)
      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 w
      • Re:Damn good point. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by arivanov (12034) on Friday January 12, 2007 @03:35PM (#17578810) Homepage
        The impact of a responsible investment policy on the money scale of GF will exceed the results from donating proceeds by an unimaginable magnitude.

        While the money it is giving to good causes may sound great, it is nothing compared to the possible impact of running a strictly "responsible investment" policy with a money chest of their size (Most of BG money and most of the wizard of Omaha money nowdays).

        This will turn the stockmarket bottom up, upside down and leave it on its head for a very long time. Money this size will cause a large number of companies to accept responsible corporate polices in order to be eligible for investment. You cannot just ignore it or turn its back on it. This in turn will force move of other investment and so on and so on.

        I can bet that the perspective of this happening has scared all those pyramid jugglers with "quantitative models" shitless. I can bet that the real reason for BGF to abandon the policy 2 days after stating it is that Gates personal phone (the one not published in the phonebook) did not stop ringing during that period.

        So this most likely is an order from above and it sucks. A money chest this size which is bound by "responsible investment" covenant may have forced many companies to assume more responsible polices and ultimately changed the world to the better much more than the money GF gives away to good causes. Everything else aside, its effect would have been much more long term.

  • 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.

    • That's the most insightful comment I've seen on /. in weeks. With a tiny fraction of their money the Gates foundation could start a small company that does the audits (or support one that already does). If a company ranks high enough they get an investment. Plus the information would help the rest of the world know how these companies are impacting them. That alone would indirectly support the foundation's goals.
  • 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.)
    • 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.
      • by Yartrebo (690383)
        My view is that BP's positioning is just a big PR stunt.

        The money amounts are fairly modest, BP is still drilling for more oil, and they seem to spend an inordinate amount of resources trumpeting themselves.
      • by Sciros (986030)
        LOL I see your point of course but on a tangent, anyone who sees a modern-day nuclear power plant as a Chernobyl waiting to happen really isn't worth the air he/she breathes. Nuclear power's only real drawback is the waste, and if that is properly handled there shouldn't be any issues. Greenpeace's alarmist and apocalyptic campaign against nuclear power really tarnishes their otherwise noble mission, IMO.

        Anyway, from the point of view of how many people benefit vs. how many suffer, and to what degree, I d
    • by Guppy06 (410832)
      "Some companies, like BP, aren't pure evil. Some, like Sony BMG, totally are."

      Christ, you've been on Slashdot too long. As much as Sony fucks over their customers, they're not the ones employing guerrillas in Colombia, etc.

      We've got corporations that, for example, turn a blind eye to child labor (Nike), unfree labor (Coca-Cola), or mass homicide by industrial accidents (Union Carbide). DRM and DMCA lawsuits really just don't belong on the same scale.
      • by Sciros (986030)
        That's fair enough. I just couldn't think of anything because I am admittely not up-to-date on anything ethically questionably that major companies are up to. I just couldn't come up with a good reason for Sony BMG to exist, is all :-) and yes I have been on Slashdot for too long.
      • by PaxTech (103481)
        We've got corporations that, for example, turn a blind eye to child labor (Nike), unfree labor (Coca-Cola), or mass homicide by industrial accidents (Union Carbide).

        All of the above companies are rank amateurs at murder and human misery compared to the kinds of people the "social justice now!" types like to have pictured on their t-shirts. Companies trying to make money can do harm, certainly, but the harm they do is nothing compared to the harm that gets done when the people who want to "help people" are
  • by coldsleep (1037374) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:29PM (#17577534)
    I hope that the Stephen & Melinda Gates Foundation approaches this issue with a little more responsibility.
  • 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 Yartrebo (690383)
      I'm not the least bit surprised. What else to expect from the same Bill Gates that has done so much to privatize and monopolize the commons that was computer software.
    • People, generally, do not live by little black numbers.
      Tell that to the poor.
      • Hey, we should just throw massive amounts of money at all our problems then. Like we're succeeding so well with in Iraq.
    • by Tim Browse (9263)

      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?
      In the words of Monty Burns:

      "I'll keep it short and sweet.
      Family. Religion. Friendship.
      These are the three demons you must slay, if you wish to succeed in business."
  • 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.
    • by PCM2 (4486)

      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.

      Just to be clear -- we're talking about a foundation here, not one guy named Bill Gates. The Gates Foundation hires people to manage every other aspect of its day to day operations. Why is hiring people to mana

    • 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.

      The idea isn't to micromanage the investments, or even to "make everyone happy". The idea is to help many people on this planet live better and more productive lives. The problem is that the many of the companies

  • 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.
    • by donutello (88309)
      You're confusing investment with charity. The Gates foundation invests its money to get a return. It then uses those returns to perform charity. When(if) they invest in GE, it's not as an act of charity towards GE but because they believe that investment will return them more money that they can use to perform charity.
  • 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.
    • I don't care how he got there

      You could have just said that, because that sums up your entire post. You see only the some facts that you like and ignore the rest. I see you're new here, and you're trying to troll, but really... pull your head out of your ass.
      • by Pojut (1027544)
        I didn't mean that literally. If you notice, thoughout my post I said put aside your personal opinions of the man. Since you seem to think I am some kind of fanboy (or whatever geek-trendy word you wish to label me as), I can tell you that I personally despise the mans ethics. I think he is ruthless, and fucks over WAY too many people.

        However, that doesn't mean that I cannot acknowledge that his company is SUCCESFULL.

        I despise the iPod. I despise Apple. But I will NEVER EVER say that they havn't done s
    • Starting from basically nothing,

      Objection! He had rich parents. Quite rich, actually. That's not 'starting from basically nothing.' Dave Thomas [wikipedia.org] started from basically nothing. But not Bill Gates.
      • by Pojut (1027544)
        and those rich parents, did they tell him how to convince 90% of the computer users to use his products? Or grow a multi-billion dollar buisness that would make him one of the richest if not the richest man in the world? No, I think not.
  • Bill Gates: "I didn't get rich by writing checks!!!"
    • Mr. Burns: "I'll keep it short and sweet. Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business."
  • Holy cow! (Score:4, Funny)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday January 12, 2007 @02:49PM (#17577940)
    Even their charitable foundation has to backpedal on the previously stated scope of its projects because of complexity.
  • 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.
  • News Flash (Score:2, Interesting)

    by billcopc (196330)
    News Flash: There is no such thing as philanthropy anymore. This is just another form of lobbying. Does Kraft really need research funding when they already own half the shelf space in every grocery store and 7-11 in North America ? Kraft never helped anyone but its own damned self. What about 3M and their many innovations in the medical and engineering fields ? What about the OLPC project ? I could think of lots of places where research funding would benefit society at large.. Kraft and Ford are not
  • Steal from The rich who stole from the poor and give back to the poor.

    Thats basically what it is (assuming those companies are really bad)

    Bad Corp make money by making Worker miserable.
    Then Gates Foundation get a bit of this money (investement returns)
    Then they give that money to the miserable Worker.

    The question is how much money did stay in the Rich guys hand ?


  • Obviously somebody at the Foundation decided to say they would change their policy to make the Foundation look better.

    Then Bill (or his father) stepped in.

    So much for that.

    Big surprise...

    I keep telling you - the Foundation is a SCAM - nothing more.

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