Being one of the world’s richest people must be great fun most of the time. But it does have its drawbacks, as we discovered while watching BBC World News on May 9. Microsoft main man Bill Gates was interviewed by a BBC correspondent about his personal foundation’s $50 million gift to improve the health of poor children in the developing world. But from the tone of the interview, you might have mistaken it for a deposition in Microsoft’s antitrust case. Or perhaps a murder trial.

1st question from BBC Correspondent: “Is this a way of salving your conscience?”

Outrage comment: We’re not really sure that, other than being a tough and very successful businessman, Gates has really done anything that requires “salving” his conscience. Of course, only he knows, but the tone of the question might have been more appropriate if directed at OJ.

Gates response’s proved that he may be a smart guy, but he should let his PR team handle the media. Instead of angrily denying that he required any such vindication, his mostly irrelevant response was that he enjoyed his foundation work, but he also enjoyed his business endeavors.

BBC question: “Do you think private contributions like this are a way of letting government off the hook for this sort of program?”

Outrage comment: Instead of saying something along the lines of “Hey Bill, $50 mill for the poor kids, nice job” the correspondent went on the attack, using the common but fallacious theory that any increase in private philanthropy must cause a corresponding decrease in government aid.

But the BBC question really implies an even more common, and more dangerous, assumption – that there is some fundamental difference between governments and the people that fund those governments. What is government aid to the poor but tax dollars that have been coerced from unwilling citizens of that government? And if rich citizens like Gates are willing to voluntarily fund those programs, why shouldn’t that lessen the tax burden on those who are unable and/or unwilling to fund those programs through taxation?

Gates has an answer: “Certainly we can’t let governments off the hook,because they’re the only ones with the scale of resources that are large enough to solve these tough problems.” Very interesting comment – on any given day, Gates and his best bud and fellow wrong-headed philanthropist Warren Buffett have a combined net worth of over $75 billion, depending on the state of the markets. That’s not enough “scale of resources” to fund these programs? So we have to rely on forced contributions from schoolteachers, factory workers, small business owners and other heavily taxed citizens? Ted Turner’s no superhero, but at least he put his money where his mouth is by donating $1 billion to the United Nations.

Bill Gates gives money to improve the health of the poor, thus increasing world population. Warren Buffett focuses his huge wealth on the problem of overpopulation, thus doing his best to prevent increases in world population. But maybe it would really be better if they would both just stick to business.

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