But Bill Gates and his foundation are the perfect picture of why this model of billionaire philanthropy is so flawed. Gates’s foundation was originally cooked up as a feel-good gloss to cover up his shredded reputation during Microsoft’s antitrust trial, putting him in the long tradition of obscenely rich people using the occasional generous gift to try justifying their enormous wealth and power.
During his company’s manic growth period, Gates emerged as a modern Gilded Age tycoon. Even sympathetic biographers refer to Gates’s frequent “abrasive, childish rants” and “childlike temper tantrums.” Gates’s number two and CEO successor, Steve Ballmer, maintained this reputation of management by yelling like an ape at employees and sometimes throwing chairs. These are the patterns of human behavior that are encouraged by the business world’s strict hierarchy, and tech, despite its reputation for in-office yoga training and green tea vending machines, is no exception.
The ensuing trial itself was fascinating for several reasons, not the least of which is Gates’s performance. He gave hours of videotaped testimony for the case, viewable today online. Besides being a transparently evasive and condescending ruling-class dick, Gates made a long list of claims that would soon be directly refuted in court by comparison to his own emails. The media was killing him on the nightly news, and even bland business journals like BusinessWeek reported, “He argues with prosecutors over the definition of commonly used words, including ‘we’ and ‘compete.’ Early rounds of his deposition show him offering obfuscatory answers and saying ‘I don’t recall’ so many times that even the presiding judge had to chuckle. Worse, many of the technology chief’s denials and pleas of ignorance have been directly refuted by prosecutors with snippets of E-mail Gates both sent and received.”jacobinmag Bill Gates’s Philanthropic Giving Is a Racket