I noticed two interesting articles in the NY Times today. The juxtaposition made me think.
One article says up to $2 billion in taxpayers money has been wasted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It gives several examples of how money has been misspent.
When the government steps in to manage any program, especially when it tries to do it quickly (in response to the public demand for relief!), I think it is inevitable that fraud and corruption and mismanagement will result in squandered funds. The government is simply not as efficient as the private sector. And when waste and fraud happen, everyone blames everyone else. (Except no one will blame the public for demanding the Katrina funding in the first place.)
Contrast this with the personal responsibility that Bill Gates will be taking for the $31 billion donated by Warren Buffett to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. One of the goals of the Foundation is to find cures for the 20 leading diseases in the world. Gates will be leaving Microsoft in 2008. Imagine the good he and Melinda can do with $61 billion. Imagine how carefully they will invest these funds and measure the impact that their investments are making.
The Times reported how seriously Bill Gates is taking this donation from Buffett.
Later in the exchange, which was in front of 200 philanthropy executives, scientists, students and a few reporters, Mr. Gates got in his own reflection on the partnership. “It’s scary,” he said. “If I make a mistake with my own money, it isn’t as big as making a mistake with Warren’s money.”
If Worldhistory.com had an editorial page (we don’t yet) and could highlight the most important news stories, the ones that will make it into tomorrow’s history books, I would wager that the Bill Gates retirement story and the Warren Buffett $31 billion donation will be key factors in some future textbook’s chapter on how the world’s major diseases were eradicated. This is an incredibly exciting story! I can’t wait to watch it unfold.
I applaud Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates for these bold moves and I wish them well in their new focus on philanthropy. I’m especially excited that Melinda Gates mentioned microcredit in her discussion of the Foundation’s goals, since it is such a promising approach to alleviating poverty in the developing world.