Fred on Philanthropy in WSJ

Fred Smith, the president of CEI, was featured in today’s Wall Street Journal in a letter to the editor responding to Robert Barro’s commentary on Bill Gates (“Bill Gates’s Charitable Vistas,” editorial page, June 19).

In the piece Fred argues that wealth creation is much more affective at reducing poverty than philanthropy, especially in the case of Mr. Gates:

Traditional philanthropy is collective, tribal, even. The donor feels noble; paternalism reigns; poverty is perpetuated. Extending the institutions of economic liberty — even to the limited degree that this has occurred in China and India — has done more good than would have been achieved had Mr. Gates liquidated Microsoft and shipped all that money to Africa.

Though some might disagree that Bill Gates has created wealth in the world, those detractors are the minority. It’s simply undeniable that Microsoft helped to popularize the personal computer and that popularization saw the computer find its way into nearly every market in the world, squeezing more efficiency from some, revolutionizing others, and creating many from whole-cloth.

Steve Jobs has said of Bill Gates:

Bill built the first software company in the industry and I think he built the first software company before anybody really in our industry knew what a software company was.

That’s the legacy of Bill Gates, innovation, not donation.