In the four minute clip below from a recent WSJ interview, Gates talks about creative capitalism – “using market forces to better address the needs of the poor” and how it can be used to combat poverty.
The key phrase is market incentive, as in “there’s not a market incentive for a lot of [aid for] the neediest and yet the values that people have, whether it’s your employees or the society that you work in, there’s an increasing interest in saying ‘let’s look at an advance and not feel totally good about it if it’s just for the best off’.”
Gates is right that a lot of people do feel this way but there is a big difference between feeling and doing. If we’re speaking within the boundaries of capitalism, no real change is going to occur without incentive in some form or another.
I believe it is possible to realize Gates’ vision but that the internet will ultimately provide the necessary market incentive. With the ease at which information is shared and accessed on a global scale it is much more difficult for companies to hide their dirty secrets. If a business uses unjust practices, I’m exponentially more likely to know about it today and equally more likely to let others know. The same is true for positive actions.
The internet allows companies who “do the right thing” to actually get the recognition they deserve and one day that kind of public reputation on a global scale could very possibly become a legitimate market incentive. The ultimate consequence would be for businesses to invest a larger amount of their resources in charitable causes (e.g. investing in serving the community instead of purchasing television ads) as Gates calls for in the interview.