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The Varsavsky Foundation
Avenida Bruselas 7, Planta 3
28100 Alcobendas
Madrid, Spain

The political blog of a social entrepreneur

Bill Gates and The Authoritarian Elements of Philanthropy

You could either say that Bill Gates is the most generous man in the world (now even more so that he gets others to donate through him), or you could say that he is a man who made his money as a monopolist who now gives his money away as an authoritarian. Personally, I think the truth is somewhere in between.

Still there´s a very important issue at stake in philanthropy and that is that even people with a tremendous amount of money who mean well, can cause enormous harm. For example, Bill Gates initial plan of vaccinating a huge number of children in Africa sounds perfect until you start wondering who will take care of those children later on in life. So here´s my sugestion to Bill Gates. I think that he should introduce democratic decission making methods in his foundations and he should introduce them through the internet. My basic idea here is that there are enough people on the internet around the world who care and that the Gates Foundation should run referendums before spending large amounts of money. One referendum could be “should the Gates foundation provide vaccination to all children of Africa”, Yes or No. And then there would be a period of debate on the internet in the form of a wiki and then a day to vote.

As the Wikipedia has shown, there´s value in collective knowledge so not only would the foundation be more effective this way, but it would be more democratic. Foundations and multinational corporations are becoming quasi governments. Just like in the past, I recommended in this blog that Google runs a referendum with its users in China on whether it should accomodate to the requirements of the Chinese Government or not.

I strongly believe that large foundations such as Gates should run referendums on major actions that may change the course of history.

Posted on July 8, 2006