Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Noblesse Oblige and the Problem of the Weak: Buffett and Gates

Noblesse Oblige was a good thing once. Now that we are entering neo-feudal world of Lords and Servants we need it again. Warren Buffett is a believer:
A $31 Billion Gift Between Friends - New York Times

... more than anything, what Mr. Buffett's $31 billion gift to the foundation that Mr. Gates runs with his wife, Melinda, shows is a common disdain for inherited wealth and a shared view that the capitalist system that has enriched them so handsomely is not capable alone of addressing the root causes of poverty.

'A market system has not worked in terms of poor people,' Mr. Buffett said yesterday, in an interview taped earlier in the day for 'The Charlie Rose Show' on PBS.

As for any thought he might have had in giving the bulk of his billions to his three children, Mr. Buffett was characteristically blunt. 'I don't believe in dynastic wealth,' he said, calling those who grow up in wealthy circumstances 'members of the lucky sperm club.'
I am not happy with the software Bill Gates brought us; I remember too well the excellent alternatives of the 1980s to think that Microsoft's monopoly has been a good thing. He earned his fortune ruthlessly and dishonestly. He has a lot to make up for.

I can believe, however, that he is lonely. He is intensely clever, notoriously harsh, and unfathomably rich. All of those things bring loneliness. Given Gates wealth and power it is fortunate for all of us that Warren Buffett, a more balanced man, beame his friend and mentor. Gates has time to balance the scale.

I wish the New York Times had explored Buffett's sentiments in more detail. I suspect he's thinking about the "Problem of the Weak". This is good.

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