Thursday, February 19, 2009

Climbing the ladder and then pulling it up

John Hawkins interviews economics Professor Walter Williams on his new book, Liberty versus the Tyranny of Socialism: Controversial Essays. One point of Williams I found poignant:

...There is so much demagoguery against the rich and in that column I was asking the reader: Bill Gates, the richest person on the face of the earth -- what can Bill Gates make you do? That is, during the 70s and 80s, the era of busing, could he have made you send your kid to a school that you did not want him to go to? Can Bill Gates deny you the right to dig holes on your property or put up a little shed on your property? He cannot do any of those things, but a lowly town clerk can...destroy your life just by denying you a permit to add an addition to your house. Bill Gates can't stop you from doing that. I think that politicians and those that want to control our lives get us to focus away from the power that government has over our lives and cast our attention to rich people.

It seems to me that Bill Gates has played right into the hand of the politicians dissing rich people. He has publicly criticized the very capitalism that helped him get where he is now so that others may not benefit, like he did. He climbed the ladder and now wants to pull it up behind him. Have you noticed how many people who become billionaires do that?


Blogger TMink said...

Bill Gates could fund an army if he was so inclined. I appreciate that he just lets mosquitos loose in auditoriums.


11:55 AM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Mister Wolf said...

Well, the reason why so many rich people are against Capitalism is that I think they want to create a class barrier. Effectively making them the new aristocracy. This is also why I think so many rich democrats are in favor of it as well. They all want to be called "Lord".

12:09 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger smitty1e said...

He climbed the ladder and now wants to pull it up behind him.

You can study the history of Microsoft, and it divides (dunno how evenly) into two categories:
a) sour grapes from those who were simple out-competed
b) justifiable outrage where Microsoft engaged in ugliness.

1:47 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Roci said...

Bill gates is obviously not the common billionaire.

1. He gives away his own money instead of lobbying congress to give away yours.
2. As he made his Billions, a lot of other people made millions with him.
3. Not pulling the ladder up because he is doing nothing to prevent the next big idea from dominating the marketplace.
4. He has so much money that he will not be able to give it away in his lifetime. Thankfully, the government will help him by taking more than half when he dies.

A more obvious example of ladder pulling would be people who bought new homes out in the country and then lobbied their county governments to prevent new construction.

2:27 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger uncle ken said...

Gates loosed the mosquitos at the TED conference in an effort to draw attention to efforts to quell malaria. Of course you could do that rather cheaply and safely with DDT (you can eat the damn stuff) were it not for Rachel Carson and the entire eco-whacko green movement she spawned by writing "Silent Spring".

One reason the bigs embrace the left-wing mantra is our taxation system, based on income. Were we to cut out the income tax and substitute a wealth tax I suspect the Warren Buffets and Sean Penns would quickly reconsider their egalitarian leanings.

2:59 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Mike said...

At least the man gave up a serious portion of his wealth to help fight disease. That is a lot more than most of his contemporaries in Hollywood can claim. Drew Barrymore is a posterchild for the hypocritical Hollywood liberals on these issues. Just do a bit of googling on her MTV-sponsored trip to third world countries where she thought crapping in the woods was the coolest thing ever to get an idea of what I am talking about.

4:44 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

Whatever gave you the idea that Bill Gates is particularly bright, or is a fan of capitalism?

Gates's fortune is built on the backs of others -- more specifically, others' ideas. MS-DOS, which gave Microsoft its original leg up, was purchased from Seattle Computer Products and then resold to IBM. SCP had no idea of the marketability of its creation. Windows was a rip-off -- and originally, a very poor rip-off -- of the operating system Apple developed (using ideas stolen from Xerox) for its LISA computer. Windows 95 and the succeeding generation of Windows products that aren't parasites on MS-DOS are the creations of former Digital Equipment Corporation master software architect Paul Cutler.

Microsoft's sole original idea was to integrate its office products so that they can interoperate -- a very good idea, but the capital that made it possible for Microsoft to develop Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) came from the success of Windows.

Gates is a skilled marketer. He's gifted at sensing market trends and following their most profitable currents at minimal risk. Capitalism -- opportunity at the price of hard labor and substantial risk -- are far down the list of his priorities. Ask anyone who suffered with Microsoft Works, Windows ME, or Windows Vista.

Why do I speak thus? Well, I've had to debug some of his code. On an 8080. In hexadecimal.

5:20 PM, February 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm no computer wizard. But I recently put another hard drive in the computer I assembled from parts I bought from New Egg. I'm installing Linux on that hard drive, and I'm going to teach myself how to use it. Then I'm going to go find programs that run on it, that don't need Microsoft at all. I'm tired of Microsoft bugs and glitches. Have been for years. Good bye, Bill.

5:53 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Mike said...

Unless you're a hardcore Unix guy in the making or have only the most minimal expectations, I give you six months before you switch back to Windows or buy a Mac in disgust with desktop Linux.

7:38 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger smitty1e said...

localhost ~ # uname -a
Linux localhost 2.6.29-rc4-git7 #1 SMP PREEMPT Fri Feb 13 09:50:46 EST 2009 i686 Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU T7200 @ 2.00GHz GenuineIntel GNU/Linux

Your journey begins here:

8:18 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Anthony Baselice said...

Francis, much of what you state is correct. Gates is no inventor and really just an opportunist and innovator at best. I will take the opportunity to correct you on the one item where you are giving Microsoft credit for developing OLE which is totally false. OLE was not developed by Microsoft. It was developed and covered under 6 Patents by WANG Laboratories. OLE was stolen from WANG by Microsoft and this was the root cause of the six patent infringement and subsequent lawsuits that Wang levied against Microsoft in the lete 80's early 90's. WANG was entering bankruptcy at the time and did not have the resources to fully fight MS, so they settled. The settlemet of those lawsuits was WANG being awarded only $100 million cash, an agreement by Microsoft that they would (and did) embed Wangs Image viewer into Microsofts NT4.0 and Windows 95 O/S's, and lastly that revenue from redirected Technical Support calls to Wangs Regional Support Centers in their Alanta operations at the time. You also failed to point out that microsoft also "stole" the disk compression algorithim from a company called Stacker, and embedded that into their DOS 6.20 O/S. Stacker sued MS and wound up getting 600 million for their trouble. The Stacker compression was removed from DOS 6.21 and resurfaced in their 6.22 O/S. So anyone who thinks Gates is this wonderful "inventor" of technologies is out of touch with the actual events historically.

11:50 AM, February 21, 2009  
Blogger geekWithA.45 said...

Bill Gates primary contribution isn't technical. It's the insight that "adequate NOW!" is the best way to grab and claim territory in the market space, coupled with an organization capable of implementing that idea. In the process, he and his organization got a richly deserved reputation for their predatory business practices of dubious ethics. Yes, some genuine technical value was created and traded, but that doesn't make Bill Gates a Hank Rearden.

6:44 AM, February 26, 2009  

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