Skip to main content

Gates famous at last

Bill Gates, co-founder and chairman of the software giant Microsoft, for a while the world's richest man, has finally achieved true fame - he appeared on Jon Stewart's Daily Show last night. (Actually it was his second time on the show, but the first was so long ago that Stewart was not yet the radical chic fame-maker he has become.)

Gates is a fascinating figure, a multi-billionaire capitalist with a canny
business head who is nevertheless entirely unfitted for power in the Society of the Spectacle. However much he spends (or doesn't spend) on his haircut and clothes, he still looks like a physics postgrad, and his performing skills are still those of the seminar room rather than the TV studio. Jon Stewart was visibly awed by Gates (as well he might be), who described his work since retiring from the day-to-day running of Microsoft, the most important part of which is investing his own millions into malaria vaccine research.

Since malaria kills more people than just about anything else in the world, and since Big Pharma finds it unprofitable to pursue, this is an unquestionably philanthropic exercise - but Gates still managed to make it sound boring by nerdy attention to detail. Paradoxically enough, I found this quite refreshing compared to the boastful, predatory boosterism we usually hear from US business moguls. 


originally posted 27 Jan 2010 11:27 by Dick Pountain   [ updated 27 Jan 2010 17:14

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A New Age of Sabotage

I haven't posted much recently because every time I think of something to say, the extraordinary pace of events makes it sound lame by the next morning: New York under water, Obama re-elected, News International in the dock, rockets falling on Tel Aviv, and that's even before we reach the Mayan apocalypse on Dec 21. However I've finally plucked up courage to wade into the torrent of the miraculous-horrific thanks to a fortunate discovery on the web. In this previous post I confessed an increasing interest in the radical Norwegian-American economist Thorstein Veblen, but that interest was quite narrowly based on reading only three of his works, namely The Theory of the Leisure Class, The Theory of Business Enterprise and his important essay The Socialist Economics of Karl Marx and His Followers. This wasn't just due to laziness but to the difficulty of obtaining many of Veblen's books, which have been out of print for a long time.

But I re-read Veblen's Wikiped…

Trump of Doom?

Thought for the day. The type of economy we call social democracy depended for its success on a willingness of the majority of the population to cooperate as well as compete with one another, giving up a portion of their income in taxes to be spent on various public goods like medicine, education and transport. If the population loses its willingness to make these reasonable sacrifices then it becomes impossible to maintain a social democracy.

The UK population was so willing for at least 30 years following WWII, to a large extent thanks to the experience of necessary cooperation among the generation who fought that war. But over the *last* 30+ years that willingness has been steadily eroded by many factors, including (but by no means confined to): greater individualism stemming from precisely the relative affluence and economic freedom that post-war social democracy conferred; successive economic crises (some related to oil, some to financial recklessness); industrial decline, outsou…

Collapse of the Left

The devastating setbacks recently suffered by the Left in the UK, USA, Turkey, Hungary and Poland (perhaps soon to be followed by more within the EU) have not yet lead to any satisfactory explanation of what is going wrong. They're still largely discussed in terms of Right v Left, but using partially outdated definitions of what these terms imply.

For the first half of the 20th century, the democratic Left was associated with socialised services, economic regulation, high wages and worker's rights,, while the Right espoused militarism, privatised services, free markets and low wages. The 1960s counterculture crucially changed the beliefs of the so called New Left in the direction of pacifism, minority rights and social libertarianism, and these positions have now merged into the mainstream Left to produce a bewildering range of different combinations and sects.

The Right still likes militarism, free markets, and individualism but has also adopted substantial parts of New Left …