"And when you start thinking about the multiplier effect, $50 billion for Bill Gates? That's nothing compared to the value he added to the world. That is much greater than the value he'll ever add in any kind of charitable activity." Gates now donates billions and applies his critical thinking skills to charity. He tested ideas in education, like small high schools, and dumped them when they didn't work. Good. But if he reinvested his charity money in Microsoft, might he have helped more people? Maybe.
Brook points out that Gates gets credit for his charity, but little credit for having created wealth. "Quite the contrary," Brook said. "We sent the Justice Department to go after him. He's considered greedy, in spite of all the hundreds of millions of people he's helped, because he benefited at the same time. (When) he shifted to charity, suddenly he's a good guy. My complaint is not that he's doing the charity. It's that we as a society value not the creation, not the building, not the accumulation of wealth. ... What we value is the charity. Yes, it's going to have good impact, but is that what's important? ... Charity is fine, but not the source of virtue. The source of virtue is the creation and the building."
What especially offends Brook, and me, too, is stigmatizing wealth creators. The rich are made to feel guilty about making money. I sometimes attend "lifetime achievement award" ceremonies meant to honor a businessman. Inevitably, his charity work is celebrated much more enthusiastically than his business creation. Sometimes the businessman says he wants to "give back."
Says Brook, "It's wrong for businessmen to feel like they need to 'give back' as if they took something away from anybody."
He's right. They didn't.
If we value benevolence, we must value creation.