Bill Gates, easily one of the richest men in the world, recently talked about his wealth and his children’s inheritance, philanthropy and taxes in an article in the the UK’s The Telegraph.
He acknowledged that “[c]apitalism has worked phenomenally” and one need only look at North Korea vs. South Korea to see evidence of that. He also noted, “Capitalism has shortfalls. It doesn’t necessarily take care of the poor, and it underfunds innovation.”
Gates made several remarks to the British audience about the American tax system:
Just raising taxes on the rich won’t solve the crisis, but it seems reasonable to people – and there’s plenty of room to do that without creating disincentives or distortions.”
The news that the mega-rich Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, pays 15 per cent tax “wasn’t shocking at all. That’s the US system. If people want capital gains taxed more like the highest rate on income, that’s a good discussion. Maybe that’s the way to help close the deficit.”
What Gates failed to note is that the American government’s deficit problem is largely due to government over-spending, not under-taxing its citizens.
He announced at the time the article appeared that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was making a $750 million donation to fight AIDS, malaria and TB in Africa, and was also focusing on helping subsistence farmers on that continent. (In July of this year, Melinda Gates announced a “family planning summit”, hoping to raise $4 billion to give more women access to artificial birth control, largely focusing on Africa and Asia.)
Interestingly, Gates said he didn’t expect the Foundation to continue very long after he and his wife were dead.
“Our foundation won’t last long beyond Melinda’s and my lifetime. The resources will last about 20 years after whichever is the last of us to go. There is no family business, and my kids will make their own careers.”
While Gates doesn’t downplay his role in technological innovation, he says the personal passion he once spent on entrepreneurship is now focused on ending disease and starvation for the world’s poor. The Telegraph article also focuses on some fascinating aspects of Gates’ relationship with long-time business rival Steve Jobs, especially in the months leading up to Jobs’ death.