The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

George Bailey, Global “Equalizer”

Back in December 2008, in my column,
“George Bailey’s
Wasted Life
,” I did Grinch duty and scored Frank Capra’s 1946 “iconic” movie,
It’s a Wonderful Life, for
being a cinematic paean to altruism, self-sacrifice, and living for others.
While coated in the patina of Americanism, I pointed out that it was a
distinctly un-American movie.  I followed
that in October 2011 with “Not
So Wonderful a Life
,” in which I dwelt on other observations I had in the
meantime made about the movie and its moral premises.
Some readers complained that while I made
valid points about the movie I overlooked the benevolence in it, that it was a
movie which made people glow with good will. It made one “feel good.” They,
however, neglected my point that emotions, good or bad, are not tools of
cognition, and that anyone who “felt good” after seeing IAWL has been conned by
an expert.  I recommended Capra’s hectic
comedy Arsenic and Old Lace as an
antidote.
This week, in the spirit of the season, I contemplated
adding a third column on the subject to incorporate further observations, but
decided that the horse was dead and that there was no longer a reason to beat
it. Then I caught an Internet squib about Bill Gates’ Stanford
University commencement address
in mid-June among a slew of such addresses.
I immediately thought, “George Bailey in
the flesh!”  Knowing that Gates is a
committed altruist who has made a career of expiating his “sins” of success and
creating unimaginable private wealth, which he is dedicated to dissolving in
the worst instance of “giving back,” I looked up that address. And, lo and
behold, there was George Bailey’s moral doppelganger and his
soul-mate
wife, Melinda, reading from prepared remarks to what I can only
assume was an adoring audience. It’s likely he got a pinch of satisfaction for
having been bestowed an honorary degree from Stanford, just as he probably did
when he got an honorary “Doctor of Laws” degree in 2007 from the school he
dropped out of, Harvard.
Of course, Gates can do whatever he wishes
with his wealth, for whatever reasons. But because he never questioned the
secular version of altruism, and had no real sound moral instruction in why he
should never have apologized for having amassed a fabulous fortune and begged
forgiveness in such an abysmal, pathetic way, that is his fate. And the
deliberate, conscious dissolution of his wealth does constitute an apology of a
particularly altruist, selfless species.
However, his attitude towards others’
wealth seems to be: I’ve made my
pile; you others can take the hindmost. I’ll respect you if you want to make
money, but only if it’s to help the poor, the lame, and the halt of the world.
Lost and forgotten in all the sanctimonious
back-and-forth about helping the “poor,” the “disadvantaged,” and the “impoverished”
is the American middle class. Gates mentions it not.
Aside from all the off-the-shelf banalities
in their Stanford commencement speech about optimism, vision, innovation, asking
“what you can do for your county – excuse me, for the world – not what your
country (or the world) can do for you,” the future, and the pride one should
feel for being a “nerd” (at one point they patronized and amused the audience
by putting on pairs of “nerdish” glasses), Bill and Melinda Gates cited some
repellant examples of what motivates them: the sores of others they seem to
enjoy sticking their fingers into and throwing money at. Were there no sores
for them to experience, they’d have no “moral” reason to “do good.”  
Bill related his experiences in Soweto,
South Africa, Melinda hers in India and Asia. Melinda rubbed elbows with Indian
prostitutes. I’m betting she took a long, hot shower every time she communed
with disease-ridden “sex workers.”
Bill and Melinda urged the graduates to
work hard in their future careers, to expect and be willing to “give back” as
they themselves are, and to seek out pockets of misery and poverty. Melinda
said, “Let your heart break. It will change what you do with your optimism.”
So here is our
appeal to you: As you leave Stanford, take your genius and your optimism and
your empathy and go change the world in ways that will make millions of others
optimistic as well. You don’t have to rush. You have careers to launch, debts
to pay, spouses to meet and marry. That’s enough for now.
But in the course
of your lives, without any plan on your part, you’ll come to see suffering that
will break your heart.
When it happens,
and it will, don’t turn away from it; turn toward it.
Work to imbue others with optimism. Live to
give others hope. Never mind the taxes and regulations that may make your
“optimism” harder to sustain. Let your hearts be broken. Weep, and you will be
rewarded.
I’d venture to say this is a scarier sermon
than any delivered by Jonathan
Edwards
, the 18th century pulpit pounder and guarantor of Hell and
Damnation no matter how virtuous a life you lived.  The whole of the Gates’s commencement address
could be re-titled, “The
Selfish In the Hands of an Angry Humanitarian
.” (E.g., Edwards wrote, “Simply
because it is natural to care for oneself or to think that others may care for
them, men should not think themselves safe from God’s wrath.”)
Before offering her broken heart advice,
Melinda Gates displayed her true epistemological and metaphysical colors (say,
rather, disabilities?), by repeating
Obama’s “you didn’t build that” mantra. Speaking about what contributes to
one’s success, she said:
When I talk with
the mothers I meet during my travels, I see that there is no difference at all
in what we want for our children. The only difference is our ability to give it
to them.
What accounts for
that difference? Bill and I talk about this with our kids at the dinner table.
Bill worked incredibly hard and took risks and made sacrifices for success. But
there is another essential ingredient of success, and that ingredient is luck –
absolute and total luck.
When were you born?
Who were your parents? Where did you grow up? None of us earned these things. They were given to us.
When we strip away
our luck and privilege and consider where we’d be without them, it becomes
easier to see someone who’s poor and sick and say “that could be me.”
This is empathy; it tears down barriers and opens up new frontiers for
optimism. (Italics mine)
Bill didn’t “build Microsoft”? The only
conclusion I can draw from this drivel is that Bill Gates’ success was possible
because he had “empathy,” combined with “luck.” If one doesn’t have “empathy,”
then one is out of luck. You won’t succeed. And if you do, you must have
cheated somehow, and you’ll be a pariah because you didn’t have empathy. Go
figure. I can picture Melinda Gates twenty or thirty years hence, resembling
that wizened, selfless old crone,  Mother
Teresa
, the patron witch of altruism. A perfect soul-mate for Bill. Lucky
him.
Bill Gates might a Democrat. He might a
Republican. Or an “Independent.” It’s difficult to determine which Party
commands his loyalty. As can be seen in the linked CampaignMoney.com’s chart of his
political contributions going back to 1999, he has divided his campaign
contributions almost equally between Democrats and Republicans and
“Independents.” Therefore, neither Party can accuse him of favoritism or of not
being bipartisan. This is so typical of American businessmen: Betting on Tweedledee
and Tweedledum in a pragmatic exercise of ensuring friendly treatment from
whichever party may assume control over the economy, finance, and trade.
In his Stanford speech, Gates noted that
advances in technology, especially in computer technology, “would make
inequality worse.” His goal from the beginning, he claimed, was to “democratize
computing.”  (You can take that with a
grain of salt.) He didn’t want just “rich kids” and businesses be able to use
computers. This is an altruist way of saying he wanted to create a bigger
market and make lots of money. At the outset, he wants us to believe, he was a
kind of “people’s capitalist” with not a selfish bone in his body.
Gates is obsessed with income “inequality,”
and “wealth disparity.” Some economists recommend that capitalism be “reformed”
to achieve “social justice.” But this is a
non sequitur. As Islam can’t be “reformed”
without killing Islam, one can’t reform capitalism, because at the end of the
reformation, what’s left is no longer “capitalism.” Gates doesn’t want to
reform it. He wants to punish it, or rather what we have left of it.
Chris Matthews in his October 15th Fortune
article, “Bill
Gates’ solution to income inequality
,” noted:
It might not come
as a surprise to many that Bill Gates, whom Forbes’ magazine ranks as the second wealthiest
man in the world, doesn’t agree with the ideas of French economist Thomas
Piketty. It’s Piketty, after all, who made a big splash this year with his book
Capital
in the 21st Century
,
which argued that it is a fundamental
law of capitalism that wealth will grow more concentrated absent destabilizing
events like global wars.
Piketty’s solution?
A global tax on capital that could help governments better understand how
wealth is distributed and stem the tide of inevitably increasing inequality,
which Piketty believes is socially destabilizing.
There’s another altruist premise: A global
tax will instruct governments on how to devise policies that will preempt the
envious and diminish “inequality.” Like most economists today, Piketty isn’t
much concerned with how wealth is created, only with how it can be seized and
distributed to stave off the envious.
                                                                                                                         
Picketty’s global tax on wealth would be
collected by whom? In all the discussions
of Picketty’s tax,  I haven’t seen one
that identifies the agency which would collect such a tax. The European Union?
The IMF? The United Nations? What entity would impose and collect such a tax globally? Further, I’ve always been
astonished by the nonchalance
with which most economists advocate various systems of legalized theft.
Gates dissents, on the other hand, writes
Matthews:
…Gates has already
pledged to give away half his fortune over the course of his lifetime, a much
larger amount than the 1% or 2% wealth tax, proposed by Piketty, would
confiscate. His problem isn’t with the idea that the super wealthy should
spread their fortunes around, but rather with Piketty’s mechanism and the
incentives it would create….
Gates shares
Piketty’s goal of spreading wealth [echoes of Obama’s explanation to Joe
the Plumber
can be heard here], yet he doesn’t want to discourage the uber wealthy (like Gates) who are taking
risks, investing in value-creating businesses, and helping the world through
philanthropy. Gates’ solution? Shift the American tax code from one that taxes
labor to one that taxes consumption.
 The super
rich, you see, have a moral duty to “help the world” and become fulltime
philanthropists. If they don’t meet that obligation, then they’re contemptible philistines
only interested in “conspicuous consumption.” Strive to “consume” less
conspicuously, and you’ll be counted as having had a broken heart and are a
good person because you’ve sacrificed a value.
After a gobbledygook fantasy of an explanation
of how Gates’ consumption tax would work for an “average” family and help to
reduce the federal deficit (!!!), Matthews neglects to mention in it that no
controls would stop a government from continuing to be a conspicuously
consuming spendthrift. For example, see Betsy
McCaughey’s
article on Family Security Matters on Cromnibus, the 1,695 page,
$1.1 trillion “budget” Congress hurriedly passed last weekend to fund the
federal government through September 2015.
Gates, however, while he endorses less “consumption”
and wishes to penalize it with a tax, is much more interested in ensuring that the
wealth one leaves one’s heirs is boiled down to rice and old shoes with a
confiscatory inheritance or “death tax.” William H. Gates, Sr.,  co-authored a sophomorically written piece, “’Death Tax’: What’s in a Name?,” in which he
advocates replacing the term “death tax” with simply “estate tax” to make it
more palatable. It was Gates Senior (and later 
billionaire Warren Buffet) who, early on, together with Melinda,
urged Bill Junior to liquidate his wealth as a moral obligation.
Matthews writes:
Such a regime could
appeal to both the right and left sides of the political spectrum. For those on
the left, who are sometimes uncomfortable with the effects of a culture based
around consumption, this tax would discourage such behavior. Meanwhile, a
regime that encourages savings and investment would appeal to conservatives.
But for a
progressive consumption tax to be truly progressive, there would need to be a
hefty estate tax to prevent the rich from simply letting their wealth grow over
generations through interest income. But Gates argues this is not a problem,
because we have the ability to institute estate taxes, a policy which he is a
“big believer” in.
The son, however, is an enthusiastic “globalist-socialist”
and endorses not only a death tax, but all kinds of other taxes,  as reported in Cliff Kincaid’s November 2012
AIM article, “Bill
Gates Urges Obama to Embrace Global Tax
.”
On Thursday, as
part of the G20 summit, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation, delivered a report on “financing for development” that proposes
global taxes on America and other “rich” nations to make the Global Poverty Act
a reality.
“I am honored to
have been given this important opportunity,” said
Gates,
founder of Microsoft. “My report will address the financing needed
to achieve maximum progress on the Millennium Development Goals, and to make
faster progress on development over the next decade.” The report, available
on the website of the Gates Foundation, proposes a financial transaction tax
(FTT) as well as taxes on tobacco, aviation and bunker fuel, and carbon
(energy), by G20 countries and other members of the European Union.
What? No FTT on trading in “carbon credits”?
Al Gore must be relieved.
George Bailey, a “community organizer” in
his own right,  has come a long way from
Bedford Falls.  He continues to “give
back” what he never took in the first place.

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3 Comments

  1. Edward Cline

    Ilene wrote me to say: Ed,

    I read your piece with great interest, not because it contained what I expected from Gates, but because I was wondering if you knew that Gates and the Gates Foundation is behind the movement to Common Core in the US. I think you would have mentioned it in passing because it is a huge issue. In his zeal to give back, Gates is determined to make every child an intellectual idiot in the name of equality. So the irony to me is that Bill Gates, whose computer software has benefited billions of people in inestimable ways, is going to use his wealth to destroy what little good there is left in government education and along the way private school education and home schooling as well.

    In other words, he is out to make sure that the generations following ours are primed for the world of Ayn Rand's Anthem.

    That's giving back, big time.

    I replied that these were crucial points, but that length considerations obliged me to leave out mention of the destruction Common Core will wrought on children's minds.

  2. Roxanne

    Very important point on Common Core and the continued destruction of children's minds by government schools.

    It's why getting the government out of education, by any means possible, is THE most important action to take, to stop collectivism of America.

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