Poor Bill Gates

Bill Gates is, by any objective standard, a desperately poor man. He does not possess the bare necessities of life. Bill Gates has no medical care worthy of the name; no cancer cures, no telomere reset viruses or oligos, no nanomachinery to undo the cardiac effects of decades of cheeseburgers. The mind that was once so brilliant that it could determine the amount of RAM that would be needed by future civilizations (never more than 640K per PC, according to his deservedly famous calculation) now degenerates steadily, losing neurons to entropy. Bill Gates, Lord of the Nerds, apparently doesn't even have the meager hope of an Alcor cryonics contract. When the cyborg life forms of the future want to make fun of him, they'll have nothing but crude simulations to mock through the long millennia.

Beyond his physical poverty, there is the poverty of his environment. Gates has no access to space, no means of offworld travel. His boots will never crunch the carbon dioxide frost on Olympus Mons; he will never see the rings of Saturn from Titan or even visit Armstrong's ancient footprints on Luna. William H. Gates III is as trapped on this disease-ridden, war-ravaged planet as any medieval serf.

Worse yet, Gates doesn't even live in one of Earth's habitable environments. He is confined to the perpetual gloom of Seattle , where even fit, healthy people get Seasonal Affective Disorder. There he sits under the rainy skies, day after day on his dark throne, his only twisted pleasure torturing his squirming MicroOrcs with interminable United Way drives.

'So what's the difference?' you ask; that just makes Gates like everyone else. No one else on this benighted globe has access to free-market health care or travel by Inter World Spacelines, either. Ah, but there is all the difference. Gates had the choice, and deliberately chose to live under Bush, Clinton , Bush, and the other minor-league political con men and thugs. No matter what happens, Bill will always use his wealth to pay other people to bully him. Gates will always have his own loafers stamping on his own face, forever.

Now if Gates had been satisfied to hire Condaleeza as a dominatrix and keep his masochistic tendencies in his own basement, everything would be fine. But unfortunately, Gates wants to share his pain by inflicting it on everyone else. If he's going to be a victim, then so are we: Gates has funded gun control in Washington State, fought a tax rollback in Washington State, and never, ever, funded anything that would slow the growth of government.

What would any rational person do if they had tens of billions of dollars? What would you do? How would you spend your time? Would you while away the years trudging around muddy Seattle golf courses, giving speeches at United Way drives, writing boring books that 'predict' the immediate past? It seems to me that sane billionaires would spend time doing things that are MORE fun than other people can do, not less. Personally, I think I'd have a pretty nice submarine and spend a lot of time hanging around coral reefs. I'd have serious biotechs with thousands of overworked postdocs in labs beyond the reach of the FDA, developing life-extension, anti-cancer, and anti-cheeseburger-effect technologies. I'd have floating platforms at the equator launching 21st Century spacecraft instead of 1950s Soviet toys. And most of all, I'd have some people working to make sure that the various governments didn't bother me.

How would you spend billions? Would you donate it to your worst enemies, in the vain hope that they wouldn't beat you quite as hard? Or would you use at least .001% to fund political movements that were pro-freedom, pro-technology, pro-progress? Wouldn't you buy some media outlets and use them to distribute pro-freedom memes? What would 'only' a billion dollars buy in the way of memes? Especially since you don't need nearly as much repetition when your memes are both true and entertaining'

What would the current mass media types do if there were actually mass media outlets that covered the crimes of governments? How would Clinton have wagged the dog in the Sudan, how would George I have gotten support for the War to Restore the Kuwaiti Monarchy, how would George II have gotten away with invading Iraq to look for imaginary WMDs, if there were cable networks that constantly reminded viewers of their past lies, and exposed whatever current flimsy fabrication they were trying to pawn off as deep statecraft? Obviously, they wouldn't. Most of our current politicians wouldn't even be in politics if their sleazy histories and crony financing were constantly in the public eye.

So Gates isn't much of a Randian hero. But should I give Gates some credit for his massive 'humanitarian' philanthropies? Yes, I should. His vaccine programs are bigger than the World Health Organization's. Reducing the world's virus load is a good thing in itself. His racist (no Caucasians or Asians) college-scholarship fund is also large, and anarcho-capitalists don't have any cause to complain about voluntary racism. We have to respect Gates' accomplishments, even as we curse his lousy, crash-prone operating system. (Remember, it could be worse; we could be using Steve Jobs' hardware AND software, and that wouldn't have come cheap, either.)

Nor can we fairly single Gates out for his political spinelessness. The fact is that there are hundreds of billionaires in the US , and none of them has ever made a real effort to reduce the expansion of government. The only billionaire to spend even a few million directly on politics was Perot, and he ran a part-time, pro-government pseudo-campaign interrupted with a bizarre hiatus. His platform was only 'put me in charge, and I'll hire experts who will make the government bigger more efficiently.' The closest thing to a billionaire hero in modern US history was Koch, who founded the Cato Institute. Cato has some real accomplishments; they have successfully confused a few Republican Congressmen into thinking that economic liberty can coexist with suppression of personal liberties, and that is all to the good. But this is it? From all the billionaires in the US , we get the Cato Institute and its multitudinous studies on making various government departments slightly less expensive? On the evidence, we would have to say that being a billionaire is highly correlated with being a masochistic doormat.

I must conclude that it is we non-billionaires who are truly to blame, for not being billionaires. If only one of us had stolen CP/M and called it DOS; or even if only one of us had kept the bullies from stealing Bill's lunch money and twisting his psyche into permanent 'learned helplessness' . . . but we don't have time travel. We must start with what we have, and go from here. If we don't have any anarcho-capitalist billionaires, we do have thousands of millionaires. Memes are getting cheaper and cheaper to distribute, and we do have the advantage that our memes actually help those they infect. Anarcho-capitalism makes people better traders, better business partners, more trustworthy as vendor or customer. I have confidence that in this decade, anarcho-capitalists will become billionaires by offering viable alternatives to today's fiat-money systems, medical technology, and hopefully even to Windows.

And in the meantime, we have the consolation that we are all richer than Bill Gates, because at least we have the guts to spend whatever meager funds we have on our own goals and pursuits.

Poor Bill Gates. No matter how much money he has, he will always be poor.

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Bill Walker lives in Plainfield NH.