Posts Tagged ‘Bill Gates’

Weekend reading: Links & comments 10/30/2015

October 30, 2015

The Midwife to Chaos and Her Perjury by Andrew Napolitano for The Unz Review.

Republican attacks on President Obama and the Clintons generally amount to straining at gnats while swallowing camels.  The House Benghazi Committee’s questioning of Hillary Clinton fits this pattern.

She was questioned for 10 hours, nearly continuously, for her alleged neglect of security leading to the murder of an American diplomat in Benghazi, Libya.  But nobody asked her about why she instigated a war against a country that did not threaten the United States, throwing innocent people leading normal lives into bloody anarchy.

And incidentally providing a new recruiting ground for terrorists..

The 6 Reasons China and Russia Are Catching Up to the U.S. Military on Washington’s Blog.

China Sea Blues: A Thing Not to Do by Fred Reed for Fred on Everything.

Just because the United States has the world’s largest and most expensive military doesn’t mean we have the world’s best military.  We Americans are complacent because of our wealth, and because we have not faced a serious threat to our existence in 70 years.

Our leaders think we can afford to waste money on high-tech weapons that don’t work, and military interventions that aren’t vital to American security.  Other nations, which have less margin of safety and would be fighting near their own borders, may be a match for us.

FBI Accused of Torturing U.S. Citizen Abroad Can’t Be Sued by Christian Farias for The Huffington Post.

Nowadays the Constitution stops where national security and foreign policy begin.


How I’d change the public schools

July 20, 2013

If I were President of the United States, I would convene a commission to advise me on governmental policy toward the public schools.  A clear majority of the commission members would be public school teachers with at least 10 years’ experience, who all had won state “teacher of the year” awards.  The rest of the commission members would be people who attended public schools and whose children attend public schools.

teacher public school Billionaires such as Bill Gates are pushing “reforms” such as charter schools and high-stakes testing, both of which are untried experiments.  The purpose of an experiment is to test a theory, and it is foolish to act on the theory before the results are in.  The billionaire reformers want schools to be more entrepreneurial, but a defining characteristic of entrepreneurs is that most of them fail.  That’s why the successful ones deserve our respect.

They may be right in assuming that educational credentials are no measure of classroom competence, but that’s a different thing from assuming that youngsters fresh out of college know more about teaching than people who’ve been doing it for years.


What Teachers Know by Nancy Flanagan for Education Week.

I’m a proud public school teacher; Here’s a glimpse at what I do by a teacher who posts as teacherbiz.

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools by Joanne Barken in Dissent magazine.

A John Galt thought experiment

April 29, 2011

In Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, the people on whom the nation depends to keep functioning – mainly entrepreneurs and their best middle managers – went on strike.  Led by the mastermind John Galt, they hid out in a secret place called Galt’s Gulch until the economy and society crumbled and the people were willing to give them their due.

I propose a thought experiment.  Make up your own list of indispensable people and then match it against the Forbes magazine list of the world’s richest people.  Or go down the Forbes 400 list and decide what would be lost if each of the members “went Galt.”

Norman Borlaug

One of my heroes is Norman Borlaug, the architect of the Green Revolution in Asia.  He of course did not produce the genetically improved crops by himself.  He was the head of a team of geneticists and agronomists.  But I think it is safe to say that without him the Green Revolution would not have happened when it did.  The environmental writer Gregg Easterbrook said that Borlaug’s work may have saved the lives of as many people as Hitler and Stalin murdered.

He had many of the qualities of an Ayn Rand hero – competence, determination, original thinking, indifference to public opinion.  His work was strongly opposed by neo-malthusians who thought saving the lives of people in overpopulated Third World countries was an exercise in futility.  But in one important respect, he did not fit the John Galt mold.  He did not get rich, or attempt to get rich, from his work.

Or, if you are not a fan of the Green Revolution, consider Jonas Salk, the creator of the Salk vaccine, or Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the software that makes possible the World Wide Web.  They made their discoveries freely available to the public, without charging a licensing free and without trying to determine who deserved their help and who didn’t.  This is in contrast to the fictional John Galt, who withheld his perpetual energy source until the world paid him tribute.  By Ayn Rand’s standard, Jonas Salk and Tim Berners-Lee were lacking in self-esteem.


Why Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are right

August 13, 2010



Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, the richest and second richest Americans, have said they are willing to see their income tax rates revert to 1990s levels in order to help bring the federal government’s budget into a better balance.

Someone near and dear to me, whose good sense in most matters I respect, sneered at Gates and Buffett.  He said that if they think they are undertaxed, they are free to donate the excess to the government, but that’s no reason why taxes on the rest of us should go up.

But taxes are not a charitable contribution.  They are an obligation.  What the government spends that isn’t paid by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett will have to be paid by you and me, and what isn’t paid by you and me will have to be paid by future generations.



CBPP stands for Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C., think tank.  Obviously the future in unknowable and the projection is a best guess.  To the extent that the United States can generate a high-wage, full-employment economy, the governmental budget problems may be easier to deal with.  But CBPP’s basic point is correct.  Changes of just a few percentage points in the top income tax rates will have a huge effect on federal government budget.

During President Bush’s administration, income taxes were cut across the board, but it was the reductions in taxes on the upper bracket payers, plus the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that did the most to throw the budget out of balance.  However, I’d be willing to see my own taxes revert to 1990s levels to show I’m willing to do my fair share and not put the whole burden on millionaires and billionaries.



Was it merit? Or was it luck?

May 13, 2010

Is Bill Gates one of the world’s richest men because he is smarter and harder-working than everybody else? Or is his wealth due to luck?

Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers points out the advantages Bill Gates had.  First, like many of the pioneers of the computer industry, he was born in the 1950s. He came of age just when Altair introduced the first do-it-yourself personal computer kit was introduced in 1975.  Moreover, as a teenager, he attended one of the few private schools with its own state-of-the-art computer, and graduated from high school with thousands of hours of experience in programming – an opportunity that very few people had in that era.

Microsoft Corp. took off when IBM Corp. commissioned him to provide an operating system for its new PC and neglected to require Gates to sign an exclusive contract.  If IBM had done so, Gates would never have been able to make the MS-DOS operating system a standard for the whole computer industry.

So, yes, Bill Gates had opportunities that nobody else had, but he had the intelligence and determination to use these opportunities in ways that not everybody would have done.  And, yes, somebody else would have created a standard computer operating system if Microsoft hadn’t done so, but it was Bill Gates who would have done so.  Yes, success depends on good luck, but, as Louis Pasteur said, chance favors the prepared mind.

Even when success is wholly a matter of luck, as in a lottery, you need to offer a prize if entice people to enter the lottery.

I don’t begrudge Bill Gates his billions.  He helped create something of value.  The only people I resent are those who got rich not by creating something of value, but by milking the system to enrich themselves at others’ expense.  Unfortunately we don’t have good ways of distinguishing between the two.