Gates blamed the “marketplace” for the lack of malaria research funding, stating:
The malaria vaccine in humanist terms is the biggest need. But it gets virtually no funding. But if you are working on male baldness or other things you get an order of magnitude more research funding because of the voice in the marketplace than something like malaria.
“Our priorities are tilted by marketplace imperatives,” Gates continued, asserting that the way to correct the imbalance is to address this “flaw in the pure capitalistic approach.”
The self-made billionaire’s comments (his net worth is estimated at $78.0 billion) raised eyebrows among some commentators who regarded his criticism of the capitalist system as being at odds with the system that enabled him to achieve his vast wealth.
And he is not alone among his billionaire peers in this regard. A writer for The Guardian newspaper of Britain commenting on Gates’ statement at the London conference observed:
Bill Gates provided a striking example this week when he slated the market for distorting important priorities.... The software billionaire gave the example of the malaria vaccine getting virtually no market funding, whereas male baldness gets ample....
Gates is not alone among billionaires excoriating capitalism. Warren Buffett, one of America's richest investors, has lambasted the super-rich for failing to pay their fair share of tax. George Soros, another anti-capitalist financier, has long argued that the market system is falling apart.
Absent from all these reports is any meaningful definition of capitalism or capitalists. Everyone has capital, even communists. The major distinction to be made among capitalists is between those who favor a genuine free market (competitive capitalist) and those who seek to stifle competition (monopolistic capitalists). In this regard, socialist authoritarians have much in common with the monopolists of old such as John D. Rockefeller (who reportedly said, “Competition is a sin”).
Gates’ company was also accused of anti-competitiveness in the antitrust law case United States v. Microsoft Corporation, ultimately settled by the Department of Justice, where Microsoft Corporation was accused of becoming a monopoly and engaging in abusive practices contrary to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
A chief characteristic of the free enterprise supporter, therefore, is not whether he advocates for capitalism, but whether he promotes competition.
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Photo of Bill Gates: AP Images