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NY Times:

The Richest of the Rich, Proud of a New Gilded Age.  Yet the old Gilded Age philanthropists did more.  Carnegie built Carnegie Lake in Princeton (when built, it was lined on both shores with flowering cherry trees ... few survive, sadly). The Duponts built spectacular gardens. I see few such long-lasting aesthetic endeavors today.  None seem to like to get their hands dirty, except with ink.

07/16/07 • 06:28 AM • ConsumptionCorrectionsEconomics • (5) Comments


There may not be as many aesthetic endeavors, but surely what Gates and Buffet are doing with their wealth is at least as worthwhile? By my standards, it’s a good bit more.

Posted by Rebecca Blood on 07/16/07 at 09:15 AM

Takes a longer answer than I have time to write at the moment.  A bit later.

Posted by Garret on 07/16/07 at 10:50 AM

I’m so busy, I have no time to answer this as fully as I’d like.  Please excuse the tone if I come across ‘crusty.’  I’m not trying to be so.  Just rushed.

The Gilded Age autocrats had direct influence on my life, both good and bad.  I see little result of the current ones.  Their wealth is built on the backs of many laborers, service personnel, and others here in America.  That much of it goes overseas, when education and health care is so dismal here, makes me believe it is unsustainable.  No competent workforce here, the well of money will dry up. 

So help locally first.  I do admire that the Gates Foundation is taking a direct interest in their back yard, Washington state.  That’s great. More states need help.

Giving folks access to computers, libraries broadband ... convenient for Gates, little real effect on the poor’s level of education.  More kids playing games in libraries, than reading.  Where will those computers be in a hundred years?  Do computers help literacy (not proven yet)?  Yet many things the Gilded Age individuals created still exist in one form or another.

HIV/AIDS is a fashionable and popular philanthropic pursuit.  But it’s not the #1 killer in the world, not even in the top 3.  It would be nice if the money was divvied up in a more equitable manner ... if it had been, likely many cancers would be cured today.  This it not my opinion; I’m just echoing health professionals I’ve discussed the issue with.

So my other complaint is that Gates and others are using their philanthropy to keep themselves in PC fashion, more than doing the most good.  Philanthropy as PR adjunct to main business.

How would I do better? One quick for-instance. How about financing the development of new antibiotics? Infection is a bigger problem than AIDS, and with resistance levels getting critical, a bug like bird flu could take civilization and wring it out.  Big Pharma seems to not want to do it unless massive profits are possible ... philanthropy could save our futures.

Posted by Garret on 07/17/07 at 12:24 PM

I think you need to look more closely at what the Gates Foundation is actually funding, for instance on the Priority Diseases and Conditions page and the related page listing actual grants made.

Posted by BillSaysThis on 07/17/07 at 02:42 PM

Ah, that’s better.  Seems I looked at the wrong sort of reference. 

I rescind my rather sour analysis.

Posted by Garret on 07/17/07 at 04:38 PM


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