Asked during an interview with Sky News Bill Gates was asked if he thought it “would be helpful” to have COVID vaccine recipes be shared, Gates quickly answered: “No.”
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In response to this “No”the following is excerpted from April 29 The.Ink post with Anand Giridharadas in conversation with Megan Tompkins-Stange
MTS: As the former CEO and largest shareholder of Microsoft, you might think that Bill Gates is a capitalist, but that’s not exactly the case. In the classical definition of capitalism, private actors accumulate and exchange assets through the free market, at prices determined by supply and demand. Gates’ version of capitalism would better be called monopolistic. He has consistently sought to distort free markets in order to advance his own corporation’s accumulation of wealth, power, and preeminence.
Microsoft achieved its dominance by using intellectual property laws to prevent its competitors’ products from running on its Windows operating system, creating a proprietary monopoly in the software industry. Gates’ wealth is a direct result of the patents that codified Microsoft’s intellectual property.
As such, it isn’t surprising that one of Gates’ core beliefs is that intellectual property needs to be protected at all costs — and that eliminating patent restrictions for vaccines violates this guiding principle.
Even though Gates sanctifies intellectual property rights, surely he would be willing to override this view in order to protect poor countries from Covid. Indeed, given that his foundation prominently proclaims that “all lives have equal value,” one might expect this — even more so given that Gates is a self-identified utilitarian, someone whose moral values elevate the ends (saving lives) over the means (compromising a principle).
But this is where it gets more complicated. As a philanthropist, Gates is a founding member of a cohort of benefactors who believe that pursuing profit is not incompatible with social good. This philosophy has been on the rise at least since 1970, when Milton Friedman famously argued that “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits,” and is now best described as “MarketWorld,” as Anand Giridharadas coined in Winners Take All, or “doing well by doing good.”
MarketWorld marinates prosocial values in market-based flavors, preferring “social impact” to “charity” and “investments” to “grants.” Gates’ alignment with this cohort means that he is far more likely to advocate for patents, even in a crisis like Covid.
Megan Tompkins-Stange teaches public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!). She is the author of “Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence.”
Anand Giridharadas from The Ink <email@example.com>author of Winners Take All
Not to just pick solely on Bill Gates ,two other billionaire monopolists of note are Jeff Bozos of Amazon and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Court Painter took special care to render their images in the best possible light.