Friday, January 25, 2008

Bill Gates' "Creative Capitalism": What is it?

We previously blogged about the efficiency rationale in nonprofit organizations law and how we must jettison that rationale in nonprofit law if we are to ever fully realize the potential benefits of charitable organizations. Miscrosft Chairman and co-founder, Bill Gates, recently spoke at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum about a concept called "creative capitalism."  What is "creative capitalism"?  According to a January 24, 2008, article in the New York Times, it means finding ''a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well."  As an example, the article states:

To illustrate his push toward more social responsibility, he announced that Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft teamed with Dell Inc., the Round Rock, Texas-based maker of personal computers, to sell a Red-branded PC.

The Red brand includes products sold by American Express Co., Apple Inc., Motorola Inc., and other companies that give a slice of the revenue to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It was first announced at the forum's 2006 meeting by U2 singer Bono.

Gates said the Red-branded products have generated $50 million for the fund in the last year and a half.

''As a result, nearly 2 million people in Africa are receiving lifesaving drugs today,'' he said.

This idea of "creative capitalism" is simply one way of expressing the idea that nonprofit leaders and scholars should not hinge thinking about charity law on principles that were developed for the for-profit environment.  Tax-exempt charities do not exist to make money for money's sake; instead, they exist to accomplish a value based mission.  That mission may, at times, require diverse considerations that have nothing at all to do with the financial bottom line.  This is a concept that I have previously referred to as "contextual diversity."

For the full article about Bill Gates' remarks at the World Economic Forum, see "Bill Gates Touts 'Creative Capitalism'" in the January 24, 2008, New York Times.


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I agree. Gates is merely carrying on the legacy of Carnegie and others. Never mind the sensationalists who take his ideas out of context. It's not a revision of capitalism he's after (those are the Journal's words), it's more about really taking capitalism back to its roots. If one looks at that original Adam Smith essay Gates mentions, or at Yunus' work, or at Napoleon Hill's analysis, then one must conclude that "giving" has always been an essential part of all-out capitalism.

Posted by: Claude | Jan 25, 2008 8:10:51 AM

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