Thursday, July 07, 2005

The evil that men do ... can work out pretty well.

In keeping with the current spike of interest in Africa, the German magazine "Der Spiegel" has an article [in English] on the subject of aid to Africa which points out some of the problems with just throwing money at the problem and hoping it'll go away. Interesting read overall.

The article ends with a little bit about the fact that Bill Gates' charitable organization demands that projects they're funding show results or they stop the cash flow [something that's usually missing from other aid projects], which made me think of something else: suppose we accept, for the sake of argument, that Bill's money is ill-gotten, the result of [illegally] crushing little companies [which I personally don't believe is the case]. I'd argue that, given what he's doing with it through the Gates Foundation, that money is being better spent than it would otherwise have been. Personally, I'd rather have $1.5 billion dollars spent on research into infectious diseases than have a few more Silicon Valley millionaires running around gushing about their latest streaming-video-blog-podcasting-social-networking software start-up that's, you know, going to totally change the world ... for about 3 weeks. Getting that kind of money pumped into medical research, by somebody who is serious about demanding results for it, is worth a few steam-rolled [browser ...] companies in my opinion.

You could, of course, argue that Bill would probably have had that kind of money to give away even without killing off so many competing companies. While that is probably true, my bigger point, reinforced by hyperbole ;-), is that the folks who think Bill is evil aren't taking into account all the good he's doing in areas outside technology. Given the way he's going, I think he's on his way to becoming something to global health like what Howard Hughes and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have been/continue to be to biological research, namely a huge enabler. That may well end up being a much more enduring and important legacy than "The 'Soft".

[This message has been brought to you by the "Shills for Bill" program, and lack of sleep. Thank you for tuning in.]

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