Bill Gates’ Real Merit
In keeping with tradition, the Prince of Asturias prize committee has decided to give its award for International Cooperation to someone who can ensure the prize’s prestige grows outside our borders.
It is true this custom alternates with that of giving the award to someone lacking sufficient merits to even be nominated, like Fernando Alonso, but that is how the committee is. This year, however, the committee has won the hatred of the vast majority of my professional colleagues; Spain’s IT community is fuming. The committee opted to give the prize to none other than Bill Gates and his wife.
The reason the committee selected Mr. Gates is his Gates Foundation
, dedicated to fighting malaria. It is a laudable goal without question; one he can undertake because of the funds earned by his successful company, Microsoft. His work in setting up the foundation also got the billionaire and his wife named “People of the Year
” by Time magazine, together with Bono, the singer. For many, it is shocking he will receive this prize. The alleged reasons for the outrage are many, although I would summarize them into one: he is disgustingly rich and, therefore, must be evil.
I too disagree with the committee because the reason it selected Mr. Gates has nothing to do with cooperation, but the extraordinary virtue of charity. I know such a word is distasteful for people who delight instead in using the word “solidarity,” applied to the generosity to fellow men they feel is characteristic of government, but it is the only term to describe what this foundation does. In truth, the way in which Bill Gates has promoted international cooperation like no one else in the world is by creating Microsoft and commercializing it’s systems and applications, that is, the same reason why he became disgustingly rich.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s company made a remarkable innovation: they sold 1s and 0s when the computer industry preferred to sell boxes full of chips and cables. Microsoft refused to go into the hardware business, insisting on creating programs that could perform in easy-to-build machines needing only to follow a certain standard. This is how they created the market conditions that allowed hardware prices to fall fast, making prices go down also in companies, such as Apple, that had chosen the opposite business model.
In other words, thanks to their business success, thousands of producers around the world cooperated through the market to make computers available to everyone. Thanks to them, Mr. Gates also became disgustingly rich. Such are the whimsies of capitalism.