Has Bill Gates contributed to humanity in proportion to his monetary net worth? And does it matter?

From another ongoing thread:

Wikipedia tells me that Bill Gates has a net worth of around $61 billion. Two questions:

(1) Has his net contribution to humanity been in proportion to that?

And (2) does the answer to question “1” govern in any way the question of whether Bill Gates “deserves” his money (if you’d care to explain how you define “deserve”).

My answers are (1) probably so, even outside of his charity work, and (2) not really. I can’t imagine a world without easily accessible computers, and even if Bill Gates’s vision has fallen short in a number of ways, it seems pretty clear to me that he kicked in the door leading to the world we live in now. And (2) as long as investors were not misled and willing to reward him in this way, and as long as people were willing to buy his products without coercion, then how on earth can you say he doesn’t deserve every nickel he’s got? The same would be true if he earned his money in real estate or (gasp) managing a hedge fund. As long as there’s an even playing field and a reasonable level of transparency, investors may feel they are better off paying someone a large salary than not.

With people moving to other countries in order to eliminate their obligation to pay taxes and Romney running for President on the “I will not disclose” platform, oh wait I forgot they changed it to the “We’ve given all you people need to know” platform, we should be doubly grateful to people like Bill Gates who understand the meaning of the word “humanity” and their obligation to it. You may disagree with the proportion of his contribution or the direction of it, but you cannot deny the existence or magnitude of it.

Who, pray tell, is able to do this? Certainly not anyone who is a citizen of the United States.

He’s talking about the co-founder of Facebook who gave up his American citizenship.

Bill gates did not invent computers or even the type of software that made his company powerful. Other people would have done similar things, maybe even better things. (probably, without his monopolistic practices programming is likely to have moved faster) It was historically inevitable without him.

Most rich people do tons of charity, it’s often a form of money laundering and certainly a form of image promotion. IE a business tactic. If ur gonna get all weepy about the guy who has plenty to give giving some…

Do you even comprehend how much 61 billion is?

Well countries are like closed systems and I think its nice to have some of the innovators and wealth creators on our own team once in a while. When Gates is gone his heirs, their offspring, successful and unsuccessful business ventures, divorces and whatnot will dissolve that wealth right back into the common pool within a few generations.

There are many other countries paying into the Gates product and at the very least its nice to be on the home team.

Wealth is self sustaining without serious moron factors. You don’t understand this?

Here’s a question for you, Untoward. Where do you think Bill Gates keeps his wealth? Are you imagining a big swimming pool full of gold coins, à la Scrooge McDuck?

I’ve heard that Bill Gates was willing the majority of his wealth to charity, and only a relatively small amount of it to his kids. Does anyone know if that’s true?

It’s true. Warren Buffett is doing likewise.

I’ve certainly heard him say that. Warren Buffet, too.

But Steve Jobs, it’s speculated . . . not so much. Did this stance make Steve less deserving of his $7 billion?

I don’t know if “deserving” is the right word, but it does make him sound like an excuse-making dick.

It sounds like Bill Gates’s kids are not being raised to be spoiled little assholes. I’m sure they’re still getting plenty of money, but I think it’s awesome of him to not give them a completely insane amount. Even aside from the fact that there are so many worthy causes that could use his money, I think it sends a much better message to his kids.

That’s not as funny as it sounds, in these days of trillions of uninvested capital. I don’t know where Bill Gates per se has his money, but there’s not as much investment going on these days amongst the wealthy as proponents of trickle-down theory would have you believe.

People have been doing it for years. John Templeton, the founder of the mutual fund group did it in 1968, dying in Bermuda a few years ago. But the number of people doing it now has tripled between 2008 and 2009. There is supposedly a waiting list at the London American Embassy to get the process started. Most who do it are dual citizens, but the Facebook guy, Eduardo Saverin, left Brazil to become an American citizen with his family and has renounced his newly aquired citizenship to live in Singapore I believe. Estimates of his tax savings are in the $600million range. Naturally he does not admit that this is his reason for renouncing his citizenship but you do the math.
In November Denise Rich, nee Eisenberg, the ex-wife of financier Marc Rich renounced her citizenship. She also has Austrian nationality and is married to an Austrian. She is one of 430 appearing on a list of people renouncing and green card holders failing to renew for that last quarter of 2011.

I think, btw, that it would only be citizens of the U.S. who could renounce their U.S. citizenship

You said “people moving to other countries in order to eliminate their obligation to pay taxes.” Moving to another country is not equivalent to renouncing citizenship, and it doesn’t do anything to mitigate one’s tax payment and reporting obligations–in practice, quite the opposite.

I think “the giving pledge” campaign alone has that covered.

A lot of his money is still in Microsoft stock, some $14bn in recent reports. After that I think a lot of it is tied up in a private investment company that he set up basically to manage his vast wealth (and a lot of his overall wealth is pledged to the Gates Foundation when he dies, and lots of it has gone into that directly during his lifetime as well.)