Slog: News & Arts

RSS icon Comments on The Gates of Socialism


I understood the WSJ item on what Gates said.. Then Charles opened his trap and all sorts of confusing ass shit fell out...

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | January 25, 2008 10:11 AM

It's easy to believe whatever you want once you're filthy rich. Without capitalism, Bill Gates wouldn't be so fucking rich.

Why don't you get rid of all of your money, you fucking douchebag?


Posted by Mr. Poe | January 25, 2008 10:12 AM

Social companies are a good temporary answer. Companies that make money doing service for poor people, like small loans or check cashing, but don't provide dividends for investors. It's better than pure philanthropy because it's sustainable, and it's better than a normal company because they won't charge your socks off.

Posted by Cale | January 25, 2008 10:18 AM

No, Charles, capitalism DOES soften. Democratic socialism comes out of capitalism, not state socialism. State socialism is the one that for structural reasons cannot be creative, cannot respond. Capitalism responds constantly, continually. Socialism in a capitalist context is the only thing that has EVER lifted a single person out of poverty.

What Gates is seeing in Africa is the failure of aid.

Posted by Fnarf | January 25, 2008 10:24 AM

Well now I'm just confused.

Posted by Mr. Poe | January 25, 2008 10:27 AM

Bill Gates has done a lot to change his image. I personally have lot of respect for the guy. I personally believe in well-regulated capitalism. I feel strongly that capitalism is the most humane and logical economic system, which I think has been proven by history again and again, though I understand that many have good reasons for feeling otherwise. But of course uncontrolled capitalism is perhaps as dangerous as uncontrolled collectivism. Regardless, I'm either too stupid to understand Mudede's point or he doesn't have one. Could someone please dumb it down for me?

Posted by PJ | January 25, 2008 10:28 AM


What Bill is looking for is socialism. But not the old form of socialism, but one that emerges from state socialism, a socialism without the state. Capitalism will never soften or be creative.

1) capitalism is creative
2) this is an example of capitalism being both soft and creative
3) meeting the needs of the poor through capitalism will be more effective than meeting the needs of the poor through socialism

we vote with our dollars, and those who run companies both have their own goals, and must respond to the desires of their clients.

once we the customer vote for the company that chooses goals of helping the poor instead of lining the pockets of investors then capitalism will soften.

just as unions were born from capitalism, not socialism, so will a sustainable system that meets the needs of the poor be born of soft capitalism.

Posted by infrequent | January 25, 2008 10:29 AM

I think what Gates says in the article is contemplative and interesting, when you consider what he's seen since becoming so involved in charity and aid work. Who convinced us that we should never in our entire lives learn things and change our opinions? We see this attitude in politics as well as day-to-day social interactions.

To dear always-angry Mr. Poe: As you know, he is "getting rid of" huge amounts of money via the Foundation. And yes. Bill Gates is very rich.

Posted by Lemma | January 25, 2008 10:30 AM

Charles wants the world to abandon capitalism for socialism, just as he has abandoned reason and logic for faith. Capitalism anti-social? It would fail miserably without social interactions, which are in actuality the basis for capitalism.

Posted by Chris | January 25, 2008 10:30 AM

It sounds like Mr. Gates has seen "There Will Be Blood"

"I drink your milkshake! I drink it UP!!

Go Bill!

Posted by patrick | January 25, 2008 10:30 AM

fnarf was quicker and better @4. per usual.

Posted by infrequent | January 25, 2008 10:31 AM

"Capitalism will never soften or be creative."!!?

I nearly choked when I read that. Capatilism is creative, socialism is not. Socialism stagnates creativity. Charles, you fail to understand human nature - people like rewards and capitalism provides the rewards for creativity. Socialism provides no incentive for creativity.

Posted by Michael | January 25, 2008 10:34 AM

chaz, what bill is looking for isn't socialism but ROI for rich people from africa without destroying africa. You have a one track mind which limits you chaz.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 10:34 AM

chaz, what bill is looking for isn't socialism but ROI for rich people from africa without destroying africa. You have a one track mind which limits you chaz.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 10:38 AM

Look like some people are missing the point of what creativity means in a capitalist context. Like they think: capitalism + creativity = **magic poof** everyone wins. When no, historically the capitalist still win, still fuck over over those with less access to the means of producing such wonderful new and "beneficent" ways to make yet more money.

Posted by point x point synopsis | January 25, 2008 10:48 AM

If capitalism works so well, why are Microsoft's products so stagnant, and so shoddy? And expensive. Most of the great ideas today are socialized, thorough government paid research in universities, then privatized by selling them off cheap to the capitalists, like Microsoft. When was the last time the crown jewel of capitalism had an original idea? It's hard to imagine Soviet Russia making a more imitative and more ham-fisted product than Windows or Office.

And then you have to ask why heavily socialized and centrally regulated economies like in Japan or Scandinavia create so more new technology. Why is it impossible for Detroit to build a truly cutting-edge car?

Posted by elenchos | January 25, 2008 10:52 AM

Does this Mudede person accept a paycheck from The Stranger? Just wondering.

Posted by mattymatt | January 25, 2008 10:55 AM

Those who think that capitalism presents the only venue for imagination fail to appreciate that our power grid, the Internet, and space exploration would never, ever have come strictly out of the private sector. The imagination of the free market, left to its own devices, seldom goes further than bringing you a cheaper toothbrush.

Posted by tsm | January 25, 2008 11:09 AM

Elenchos, despite what you hear, ALL modern Western economies are heavily socialized and regulated. Japan, the US, France, Germany -- all are socialist and capitalist to about the same degree. Minor differences exist, of course, and they are the subject of endless bitter debate. That's all fine tuning, of a sort that capitalism excels at, because it responds to signals.

Detroit will produce sensible cars exactly four years after Americans start to want sensible cars. That hasn't happened yet. What America is currently undergoing is a failure of culture, not a failure of capitalism. Most Americans pay lip service to capitalism and freedom but are actually terrified of really living it.

Posted by Fnarf | January 25, 2008 11:10 AM

elenchos is my hero. thank you.

Posted by charles | January 25, 2008 11:10 AM

I think the differences in corporate governance and finance in the more socialized countries are more than minor differences. The differences are significant enough to explain why we have so many billionaires and so few new ideas.

And I didn't say sensible cars. I said cutting edge. Honda and Toyota sell senseless SUVs and hot rods to USian consumers, but they are 21st century senseless cars. The question is why the most regulated capitalists are consistently best able to put the latest ideas into production, while the least socialized capitalists get by with phony prototypes and mock-ups, and endless lame excuses.

Posted by elenchos | January 25, 2008 11:22 AM

Part of Gates' motivation comes from his Catholic religion: He wants to save more and more pagan babies. Certainly it's humane to fight disease. But Gates et al won't provide birth control for the poor women, just want them to have more and more babies, more and more potential Catholic souls...

Posted by isabelita | January 25, 2008 11:23 AM

yes, bill is a raging catholic...
isabelita, are you in fact issur?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 11:42 AM
Posted by Lemma | January 25, 2008 11:48 AM

Markets, Elenchos. The cars you're talking about are not interesting to Americans. It's nothing to do with regulations; it's to do with what people want.

And a few million other factors. Notice that the best SUVs and minivans don't come from American car companies, either. But the result you seek is coming, just not as fast as you'd like. There's another huge automaker bailout coming, in order to keep GM or Ford alive (Chrysler is a goner) -- but bailouts are hardly capitalism run amok. Quite the opposite.

Posted by Fnarf | January 25, 2008 11:50 AM

@19: That hasn't happened yet. What America is currently undergoing is a failure of culture, not a failure of capitalism.

one of the failures of capitalism is a failure of culture.

Posted by infrequent | January 25, 2008 11:52 AM

elenchos, what comparison are you making here? capitalism has no new ideas compared to what? the USA has less new ideas compared to sweden? i'd like to see you prove that.

the most regulated capitalists? see, you have a fundamental lack of understanding as to why honda and toyota are more competitive than general motors and ford.

1. they arent beholden to american labor markets aka unionized detroit. sure toyota has american plants but they are in the south, away from unions. more efficient labor markets, more capitalist labor markets.

2. they have better vision of the market because currently because they have always specialized in smaller, more fuel efficient cars where as the domestics have never really focused on that market segment. they have more experience in producing what the market currently demands than domestics.

these are just two of the reasons toyota is a better company than any of the domestics right now. there are more.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 11:55 AM

@22 Part of his motivation also comes from wanting to avoid paying taxes.

Posted by Mike of Renton | January 25, 2008 12:02 PM

infrequent; i'm sure we can point to places that have better culture that are socialist. like it or not, socialist countries that succeed are mostly small population wise and geographically(not the U.S.), homogeneous (not the U.S.), and have a fundamental difference in experience from an american that shapes their outlook on what is important in life. saying that a failure of culture is a failure of capitalism implies that free markets are somehow responsible for promoting culture. that would be wrong; free markets aren't beholden to some standard you made up in your mind about culture, but rather are beholden to what is most valuable to people.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 12:04 PM

@29. hmmm. well, i think you and i agree about capitalism. what i am saying, however, is that capitalism's strength is the same as it's weakness. it is strong when people take care of it. but many people are lazy, or don't want was is actually "best" for everyone, so these "cultural failures" as fnarf calls them are the weaknesses of capitalism. just like democracy: if people don't participate, or get informed, then it cannot function at it's best.

capitalism will hopefully slowly move toward being "soft", and i see the shortcomings as less harmful then those of forced socialism. but certainly you can acknowledge there are faults to be found in capitalism as we practice it today.

Posted by infrequent | January 25, 2008 12:12 PM

Fnarf, Toyota and Honda sell cars to the same US consumers as Detroit. You're telling me the reason they are a decade behind in hybrid technology is that they are more responsive to consumers? How can the products Toyota is making a profit from in the US market be "uninteresting" to US consumers?

And Bellevue, do you have any idea how powerful the labor unions are in Japan? It only begs the question: why are the more socialized companies better able to address the reality of unions? Universal healthcare is a good place to look for the answer to that. As well as bankers and government regulators who expect the corporations to do what is good for society as a whole, not just themselves. That's what makes them more socialist: they are more interested in the broader social good, and it makes them function better.

And you both are begging the question of why the more socialized countries are more nimble in bringing new technology to market. Why do corporations beholden to Wall Street think only of next quarter's profits, while the German and Japanese bank-centered corporations begin rolling out hybrids a decade or more before the consumer knows they want them? Why do the companies who are enslaved to the stock market lack vision?

And Bellevue, the United States is the example of a successful socialist country you are looking for, as Fnarf has said before. I would argue that we are successful in so far as we have taken advantage of socialism. It's what kept us from being a banana republic. Or less of a banana republic.

I blame our problems on too much unfettered capitalism, and not enough adult supervision.

Posted by elenchos | January 25, 2008 12:20 PM

Thats an interesting thing about bailouts, tax rebates, austerity measures and other legislative fixes, fnarf@ 25:

These things come across at first like manipulating the market, tinkering, regulating, you know those so called trademarks/bogeyman of socialist dogma, but they are in fact some pretty old school capitalist tactics. These guys don't want a free market, never have, if that were the case they'd have to compete without the lawmakers they carry around in their pocket.

Posted by point x point synopsis | January 25, 2008 12:24 PM

Elenchos you are out of your league on this one....

Best to admit you are clueless and listen more on this one

Posted by Just an observation | January 25, 2008 12:25 PM

Wanted to add this to 32:

It's a shell game, and who really knows what the actual intent of these things are. But we can be pretty sure they are not done in the best interests of most of us.

Posted by point x point synopsis | January 25, 2008 12:32 PM

elenchos, if the labor unions were so strong a force on toyota, how can they get away with exporting jobs to un-unionized southern united states?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 12:40 PM

Elenchos, are you laboring under the impression that Toyota is not a capitalist company?

Posted by Fnarf | January 25, 2008 12:44 PM

they arent state owned are they? they are owned by shareholders.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 12:48 PM

Mr. Gates Sr. has written some very interesting stuff on this topic in the past, and I'm sure that's where Bill gets it. I have great respect for him in this regard.

Posted by Dougsf | January 25, 2008 12:56 PM

I believe I repeatedly used phrases like "more capitalist", "less socialist", "greater control", "bank-centered vs stock market" and so on. It's not hard to see that I'm comparing differences of degree between greater and less socialism/capitalism.

And saying that that difference in degree is where all the difference is.

How does Toyota get away with exporting jobs even with a strong union back in Japan? Cooperation, my friend, cooperation.

Isn't it funny how everybody is just supposed to genuflect when the credit for every good thing we have is given to capital and free markets? I ask, how much better could we have done had we not spent so much time cleaning up the messes the market created? Or doing battle with the rich to get important work done?

And how come I don't feel like I'm out of my league. It actually kind of feels like I'm kicking sand in the face of the skinny kid at the beach. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Posted by elenchos | January 25, 2008 1:15 PM

@35 - That's a curious argument. Ford and GM have plants in Mexico, if the labor unions are so strong a force on them as you suggested, how do they get away with that?

Posted by tsm | January 25, 2008 1:16 PM


Banks, not the stock market, own and control most of the corporations in Germany and Japan. And the banks are more or less state controlled.

Posted by elenchos | January 25, 2008 1:18 PM

elenchos, find out how much of toyota is owned by a state run bank.

tsm, the benefits and salary that gm calculated for their employees were about $73 an hour. there is apparently a $25 pay gap between them and toyota. they arent capitalizing on mexico enough apparently because the union has them by the balls.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 1:40 PM

also, we should look at how japanese banks are doing and german banks are doing...american investment has come home to roost and some of the bad debts have never been cleared off their books.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 2:00 PM

I would say the percentage of Toyota that is state owned is at least enough to keep them from betting the whole company on Americans buying gas guzzling cars ad infinitum. QED.

And we are still left asking, why don't the unions in other rich countries have their companies by the balls? Isn't the lack of socialism -- in your example, health care, but there are other points as well -- the very reason why GM is at a disadvantage? Can you imagine how much poorer our automakers would be if we didn't have socialist enterprises like the Federal superhighway system? Can you imagine if Harley-Davidson were a Japanese company, if MITI would have allowed them to languish decade after decade without spending a dime on R&D? When the baby boomers die, Harley will die with them. Only in America would that be allowed to happen.

Your last point is merely burning a straw man. Nobody asserted German and Japanese banks were immune to bubbles in the US, or that they had any other magic powers.

Posted by elenchos | January 25, 2008 2:05 PM

so you're saying that failing companies need to be capitalized by the government or government owned banks to remain competitive because somehow being being capitalized by the government makes their corporate governance and guidance better? how can you even show that? are you saying the government should provide capitalization to GM and that somehow would allow them to make better business decisions? you can't provide a link between increased capitalization and better products, can you?

and why can't things be allowed to fail? this is the reason japan, after the bubble of the 80s, languished for almost 2 decades; the government didn't allow failed ventures to fail. they forced more financially able banks to take on the debt of other banks. i can't honestly believe you're saying the state run banks of japan have resulted in a healthier japanese economy and improved japan.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 2:26 PM

This is not worth while if you won't read. I made a point that H-D would have been required to invest in R&D in the recent four decades, and you interpret that to mean I said the company, in the sad shape it is in today, should be bailed out. And by sad shape, I mean highly profitable, yet having no future once it's nostalgic fans fade away.

I doubt much can be done to save the US auto or motorcycle industry at this point. Had they been forced to behave in a socially responsible way over the last 40 years, in an economy with universal health care, strong environmental laws, consumer protection, and a general expectation that they had a duty far beyond the greed of their stockholders, then it might have been different.

Posted by elenchos | January 25, 2008 2:41 PM

I would like a pocket-sized mini-Fnarf to carry with me at all times and make me sound smarter.

That is all.

Posted by Julie | January 25, 2008 2:58 PM

elenchos, you don't know what you're talking about. how would any of those things saved Harley?

you can't have forward looking innovation simply by requiring it by mandate. making harley invest in R&D would do what exactly to their market disappearing? they could create new products but if people don't want motorcycles what do they do? how do they get capitalization to do those new things? a company that doesnt specialize its talent and resources into a certain realm or field usually isnt that succesful (also why many mergers fail)

and you simply don't understand that there are companies that innovate all the time that are beholden to stock owners even though they are a public company.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 3:07 PM

also, how do you know what innovation is starting 40 years ago? 20/20 hindsight is clear. thats part of your proposal; you know what things are needed now, but what is innovation 20 years from now elenchos? this is why forcing r&d isn't efficient. you don't know what the market demands into the future. you could develop a motorcycle that ran on sunlight; thats innovative, but that doesnt significantly change the demand motorcycles; motorcycles are an elastic good for obvious reasons.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 3:33 PM

1995 to 2005 U.S. Motorcycle Market Share

Honda 27.4%
Harley-Davidson 23.7%
Yamaha 17.4%
Suzuki 10.8%
Kawasaki 8.7%
BMW, Moto-Guzzy, Ducati, etc. 12%

Harley's ever-shrinking slice is based entirely on a funky retro niche. The four Japanese companies eating Harley's lunch each offer a full range of products in every class: sport, touring, off-road, cruiser, police. And they are all four strongly invested in racing with the intent to win (H-D doesn't even attempt to race), and all four are committed to new technology. Honda and Suzuki make both cars and bikes; Yamaha is into pianos and trombones and god knows what. Dildos no doubt. These widely known facts flatly contradict the statement about specialization you just pulled out of your ass.

H-D did want a new engine design about a decade ago, and was forced to outsource the work to Porsche. Even boutique shops like Ducati are capable of running a racing program and designing a new engine, but Harley can't even do that any more. Porsche gave them a great new engine, but -- get this -- Harley took it and anti-engineered it to be visually "fatter" and to literally weigh more for no good reason, other than their marketing said they needed a primitive look. It's just sad on so many levels.

Anyway, I assure you, I know a thing our two about what I'm saying, and you don't. I wonder what's on PornTube...

Posted by elenchos | January 25, 2008 3:43 PM

elenchos, what do you know about conglomerations and how they come into being? you're essentially saying all companies should be conglomerations when that isn't possible based on opportunity cost of time and money.

yamaha became the company it did because it found niches in various manufactured good markets that it could compete in. they didn't simply expand into motorvehicles by magic. yamaha was a piano and musical instrument company first and foremost, who through wwII had been retooled to make vehicles and continued that business. they found a market for motorcycles out there and the rest is history. they didn't do it because the government told them they had to think of the greater good. they did it because the government forced them into something during war, and there was a demand for it afterwards. what happened to all the japanese companies making planes by mandate?

look at IBM. they sold their laptop division because they could see that the business wasn't going to be good in years to come but their consulting business is still raking in money. they sold off a profitable part of the company because of foresight.

as for harley, who cares if they stay in business. if they lacked the foresight to expand their product line that is their fault. how could you feasibly mandate expanded product lines? how do you know what product lines will flourish. only the market can tell you that. if motorcycles werent in demand, yahama wouldnt have made them. they would still be a musical instrument business.

part of the problem i suspect is that you're confusing the hindsight you have now with foresight that harley should of had.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 4:18 PM

and you don't see the obvious benefits of harley being pushed out either? rooting out poor players in a market is better for the market in the long run. the people that were once working for harley can now better allocate their labor to something more productive than crappy motorcycles

and now for some obvious counter claims to the above:

one could make the argument yamaha was forced into motorcycle production for the greater good of japan. of course that was at the expense of everyone around them. using the same reasoning, one could say that forcing harley to make motor vehicles for the iraq war would be good for us and harley at what expense to iraqis?

so elenchos, do you support the greater good at the expense of others like how yamaha got their motor vehicle division?

another possible one; conglomerates can become monopolistic ala clearchannel. you support conglomeration elenchos, but frown on the outcomes of it?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 4:44 PM

and for more thought;

GE, good or bad conglomerate? they aren't backed by a government owned bank are they? they are wildly successful arent they?
Johnson and Johnson?
Berkshire Hathaway?
News Corporation?
Proctor and Gamble?

harley failed because the lacked foresight. all these other companies had it without needing the government to force it upon them.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 5:04 PM

also, harley isn't out yet so im not going to use the past tense on fail. they can still make changes. you want them to fail.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 25, 2008 5:08 PM

Bill Gates is a dick.

Posted by xx | January 25, 2008 8:43 PM

His mother was a saint, I tell you. A SAINT!

Really, she was a very nice, classy lady. She did good with Bill. Or his wife has done good. Or maybe he's just a good person.

But his mother really was a saint. RIP, Mary Gates. I only wish you'd lived long enough to see the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You would have been an excellent Director for it.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | January 25, 2008 10:37 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 45 days old).