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A Capitalist Revolt – Against Warren Buffett and Bill Gates

Fortune readers respond.

5:15 PM, Aug 9, 2010 • By ANDREW B. WILSON
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Call it another manifestation of the extraordinary disconnect between the “Ruling Class” and the rest of the country.

A Capitalist Revolt – Against Warren Buffett and Bill Gates

Bill Gates

In its June 16 issue, Fortune magazine ran a cover story (“The $600 Billion Challenge”) in which it revealed that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett had been engaged in a secret campaign over the past year and a half seeking to persuade other billionaires to join them in pledging to donate half or more of their entire fortunes to charity, either in their lifetimes or at death. 

When this issue arrived in my mailbox, I cast it aside – wearied by seeing what looked like another fawning cover story in Fortune on Buffett (it seems like there have been dozens of them over the years) and, in any case, having little interest in finding out how he and his friend Gates had set about trying to “change the face of philanthropy.” 

As it turns out, however, the writer, senior editor-at-large Carol Loomis, struck a raw nerve with Fortune readers.  Most were outraged – regarding the philanthropy plan as grandstanding that would do nothing to create jobs or to address horrific problems, including runaway government spending, the spiraling deficit, and the near-comatose state of the economy.  As Fortune notes in its July 26 issue, “When Carol Loomis reported on Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates’ plan to pledge half of their wealth away, the comments – nearly 500 of them – came in fast and, literally, furious.”

According to Fortune’s own tally, the comments ran 2-to-1 against Buffett and Gates.  The included 36 percent of who readers described the philanthropy plan as “a publicity stunt/dangerous/the work of socialists” and another 26 percent who said the money that Buffett, Gates, and the other billiionaires were proposing to spend on charity should be spent in other ways – to pay off the U.S. debt, to help individuals, or reinvested in the creation of new businesses and job opportunities. 

Any number of readers wrote in to urge Buffett and Gates to remember that they were supposed to be capitalists.  As one put it, “For all their vast wealth, these people don’t have a clue about how economies flourish and fail.  Don’t GIVE your money away.  That’s called putting it in a bottomless pit.  INVEST IT.  Create some badly needed jobs by creating something called BUSINESSES with that capital.”

Another reader added:  "I'm a capitalist and I expect capitalists to support capitalism.. These guys have gotten sooooooo [wealthy] that they have lost sight of the fact that others would like the opportunity, and they are supporting a big government that is in the process of eliminating all such opportunity."

Andrew B. Wilson is a writer and business consultant.

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