A Smear Is Not an Argument
Given that former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has been so frequent a target of smears himself, one would hope he’d be loathe to engage in same.
But at a recent forum, the software maestro was less than his moral best when asked about the book Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa, by Zambian writer Dambisa Moyo. Gates, now a full-time philanthropist, charged that Moyo “didn’t know much about aid” (a topic she’s been investigating for years) and that “books like that are promoting evil.”
Moyo’s book considers the long-term effects of non-emergency aid. She argues that it can encourage corruption and discourage the development of free enterprise. For example, when Western aid organizations distribute large quantities of mosquito nets, they can put a native seller of mosquito nets out of business.
Moyo is not arguing against all aid regardless of circumstances (as Gates seems to assume), but rather against ongoing or “structural” aid that fosters long-term dependency, lines the pockets of dictators, and makes it easier to defer basic reforms. Her diagnosis may be arguable. But Gates didn’t argue. He just smeared the woman and her book.
Evil? For considering costs? Cause and effect? The long run?
Businessmen are lucky, so to speak: They exist in a system that tells them when they are doing well, no matter what critics say. Gates thrived at Microsoft, despite choruses of critics. Now he has entered a field dominated more by good intentions than accepted standards of output. Hence the ugly nature of this dispute, and perhaps why he eschewed what Moyo identifies as “logical counter-argument.”
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.