Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bill Gates and Creative Capitalism

Bill Gates gave a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in which he talked about the limitations of pure capitalism in addressing the unmet needs of the billions of very poor in the world and his proposal for creative capitalism to use recognition as an additional incentive to supplement raw profit as an incentive for business to address those unmet needs.

It is a fairly simple but powerful proposal.

That said, I am still unsure about the nuances of the concept.

For example, what is the essential role of national governments to provide aid to people in other countries?

Are there lines and if so where might they be between government aid, businesses providing aid, private philanthropy, non-governmental organizations, etc.

Where exactly does sovereign responsibility end and external aid come in?

And when you have disasters such as Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia, and now Kenya, where do the lines get drawn?

Yes, the very poor have unmet needs, but when "power" is at stake, the ability of anybody to provide aid becomes quite murky.

All to often, grinding poverty has less to do with money and a lot more to do with politics and raw naked power.

I am confident that business can play a much greater role in addressing the human needs of those at the bottom of the pyramid. For example, Microsoft's Unlimited Potential program really does have a lot of potential to reach a lot further down the pyramid.

That said, I do worry about being careful not to marginalize the efforts of national governments in areas where they might be uniquely positioned to do a better job of offering and delivering aid and other forms of assistance.

-- Jack Krupansky

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