Acton Institute Powerblog

Bill Gates and ‘Catalytic Philanthropy’

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In today’s Wired, Microsoft founder Bill Gates shares his thought on how busines, government and philanthropy can make positive changes in the world. Gates makes it clear that he is pro-capitalism:

I am a devout fan of capitalism. It is the best system ever devised for making self-interest serve the wider interest. This system is responsible for many of the great advances that have improved the lives of billions—from airplanes to air-conditioning to computers.

However, Gates also sees a role for governments and business in driving innovation:

Governments don’t do enough to drive innovation either. Although aid from the rich world saves a lot of lives, governments habitually underinvest in research and development, especially for the poor. For one thing, they’re averse to risk, given the eagerness of political opponents to exploit failures, so they have a hard time giving money to a bunch of innovators with the knowledge that many of them will fail.

By the late 1990s, I had dropped the idea of starting an institute for basic research. Instead I began seeking out other areas where business and government underinvest. Together Melinda and I found a few areas that cried out for philanthropy—in particular for what I have called catalytic philanthropy.

He also discusses criticism of those who say we’re in a “post-capitalistic” society:

I’ve heard some people describe the economy of the future as “post-corporatist and post-capitalist”—one in which large corporations crumble and all innovation happens from the bottom up. What nonsense. People who say things like that never have a convincing explanation for who will make drugs or low-cost carbon-free energy. Catalytic philanthropy doesn’t replace businesses. It helps more of their innovations benefit the poor.

Read “Bill Gates: Here’s My Plan to Improve Our World — And How You Can Help” at

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.


  • J. Alejandro

    To that end, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — one of the major
    underwriters of the campaign to implement the standards nationwide —
    recently donated $100,000
    to the National Catholic Education Association in order to “support
    trainings and provision of follow-up materials for teachers on
    implementing the Common Core State Standards.”

    Read more:

  • Beth Donabedian Beatrice

    I am so sick of Bill and Melinda Gates and their meddling in education and society. These two think they know what is best for all of us. I know a teacher in a Catholic school who is being trained, thanks to the Gates’ dollars, to teach children that there really is no right or wrong. The children need to decide everything for themselves. God forbid we might try to teach Catholic doctrine in a Catholic school. Don’t even get me started on Bill and Melinda Gates’ role in promoting the Common Core, the “Obamacare of education”. These two are a toxic pair, and I wish they would just wallpaper their homes with their dollars instead trying to be social architects. I also hate the way people ooh-and-aaahhh over the Gates and their money. MONEY DOES NOT EQUAL WISDOM, TRUTH OR GOODNESS.