Gates/Buffett Column Feedback

Some good responses have come in that I thought I’d share with y’all:

“Ken” (his name has been changed to protect his identity) starts out with Emilio Estevez’s classic dying quote from “Repo Man”:

I blame society.

No … really. Pointing out that it can’t possibly be ethical for one person to have accumulated 44-50 billion dollars is meaningless in a society where a struggling single mom thinks she is one TV Game Show or Lottery Ticket away from having millions. Their billions are justified by the people who want (but will probably never have) a touch of that kind of wealth.

We as a society, are very much about winning the game and winning as big as you can. America is about getting more, not just enough, and no where is that more reflected than in our version of Capitalism. To many people (including, perhaps, Gates and Buffett) the stack of billions is not merely wealth, but their life-time score in the game of Capitalism. And aside from the hypocrisy of Baseball, most Americans seem to be just as enthusiastic about those who win by playing by “gaming the system” as they are for those who play honestly.

But this, all of this, is academic.

What percentage of the population will actually listen to new information and possibly change their world view based on that
information? I can’t quote a study but I imagine among media consuming young adults and adults the percentage is less than 1%. All of the activist outreach, all of the propaganda, all of the well-reasoned editorials in the world amount to nothing more than SPAM — spewing out volumes in a desperate search for people who have the ability to change their minds.

But don’t stop — not for one instant — or your message will be swallowed up in the storm of ideas … lost “like tears, in rain.”

Looking back at what I have written, before sending it, I see that I have really said nothing new about America that Umberto Eco’s “Travels in Hyperreality” hasn’t already said and nothing about modern Capitalism that hasn’t been said by Jamie Uys’ excellent “The God’s Must be Crazy.”

It’s just more SPAM.

Thanks, etc.

On the other hand, Lloyd stands up for laissez faire:

Count me among those who regularly agree with much of what you say as well as being among those who considers himself quite left of center politically. But count me also as a nerd who feels an instant need to come to Mr. Gates’ defense, though I’m sure he can defend himself quite ably. As to Mr. Buffet, I don’t know the man and cannot even pretend to speak intelligently about him.

Bill Gates is a smart man. I’m sure we agree on that point. As he grew his company, unlike many leaders, he included him employees in his prosperity. His company was also at the forefront of providing employer benefits that we all wish Wal Mart would emulate. Though his company is huge, and the stock he has owned since the beginning is substantial, his annual compensation is under a million a year, rather small for such a man. The reason he’s so rich is our stock market which values Microsoft stock so much, that his share has ballooned to the many billions it is now worth.

You mention a price point of $200 in your article. I’m unsure of which program you refer to, but most people with Windows on their computer paid $100 or less for that fully legal copy of Windows. As to fairness, well, the technically adept can get Linux for free while the rest of us are going to pay someone, whether it’s Bill or Steve.

Bill Gates is not stealing by selling his product for a stated price, and his wealth was not stolen from anyone since the vast majority of it is paper wealth only. But when he converts that paper wealth into actual money just so he can solve the problems of the world (and every dollar spent by private citizens on the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and private money has been a part of its financing since the beginning, is one more dollar of our government’s money that will not be borrowed by an irresponsible Legislative and Executive branch).

Because of Ken Lay, many people had entire retirement accounts wiped out. Because of Bill Gates, many people will live enriched lives. We don’t need to fall over ourselves thanking Bill, but we shouldn’t be comparing him as less honorable than the likes of Kenny Boy.

People often only write to complain, and I’m guilty of that here, but keep up the good work. I never miss a column.

P.S. (and quite late): As an avid Arizona Cardinals fan and someone who had a Pat Tillman jersey when only locals knew his name, cut the guy a break. He learned that he had erred by joining in Bush’s jihad. He just didn’t get out before the bullets got him.

I’ve said on numerous occasions that, had I known what I know now about Pat Tillman, I wouldn’t have drawn that cartoon in 2004.

And finally, there’s this:

Bravo on a brilliant column.

I was wondering if anyone would come out and tell the truth about Buffet and Gates.

Lionizing two ruthless businessmen for charitable giving with money that was essentially stolen from many people over a very long time (legally or illegally stealing is still stealing) was too hard to stomach for me.

This money if distributed equitably and fairly as pay and compensation would have had a far greater effect on charitable giving than these two could possibly do now.

Gates is an anti-trust cheat who bundles software to torpedo competitors and somehow escaped the breakup of his company. Although Europe still has a lot to say about that.

Buffet is a holding company baron who can effectively rule over a vast range of companies through the power of the boards. Since he controls so many boards who knows what he was able to pull off. Collusion, antitrust, cut throat competition etc. I’m sure it is all legal or can’t be proved to be illegal.

The government today tolerates what wasn’t tolerated in Teddy Roosevelt’s time and certainly not tolerated after the great depression. Because of this lax enforcement we have a thousand Ken Lays out there that will never be brought to justice. People’s livelihoods, retirements, college for their kids and the dream of owning a home are rapidly disappearing as the Buffets and Gates take more of what is rightfully other people’s money.

And the most galling is their canonization in the news media for giving away what they can not possibly spend.

As a closing the worst isn’t even these two. Even they blanched at Bush’s economic policies.

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