It's hard being a Microsoft employee. These days it seems that everyone loves to hate us. When I get down - all I need to do is read something like this:
And it makes me proud to be working for this great company again.
Think what you will of Bill Gates / Microsoft - but then as yourself - how many lives have *you* saved?
Robert - Bill Gates's giving is all nice and well, and I do believe he and Melinda and Warren are giving their money away for well minded reasons and out of a genuine belief that they can change things for the better.
However, it is my prophesy that their attempts at saving Africa in a sustainable way will fail. Currently, the local situation as described in the article is improving, but it is not a sustainable improvement if it hinges on financing (from tax coercion and voluntary giving) from abroad. The real deal would be if the African economies developed to such an extent that their easily curable miseries would not have to be financed from abroad, just like the United States, China and Europe do not have to rely on foreign donors to take care of their own health care problems. Bill appears to believe that spending his money to cure African children of diarrhoea is a necessary step on this process, but I don't think his math is going to play out. Instead of a self-sustainable economy, what's going to develop is yet more dependence on direct foreign giving.
I have good reasons to believe his well-intended plans will fail, and that the money would have been better invested in other things. <a href='http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_Differences_in_Intelligence'>This book</a>, as well as what history teaches, is why I believe that.
Basically, what Bill and friends are doing is, they are inflating a population that's going to be dependent on more foreign help for its existence, and it's going to dwindle in greater misery when foreign help eventually dries out.
You can't sustain a population of 1 billion this way. Africa is self-sustainable on population levels that existed before colonialism. Sustaining a larger population requires a sustained foreign intervention.
Denis, wow, if you're going where I think you are going with that book reference, you need help. Is your point really "They" aren't all that intelligent so "they" should be left to die? If it is, then why don't you come out and say that? Probably because when stated out loud the obviousness of it's stupidity is clear to all.
All that said, I think further research into how the Gates Foundation approaches health issues is in order. From all that I have read their goal is not to subsidize healthcare for an entire continent but to specifically address the point you raise - sustainable improvement.
Most of the priorities outlined here center around big bets on vaccines, research, etc. In terms of the chronic disease outlined in the article, the foundation is large enough that it can by brute force "make a market" that otherwise wouldn't exist for research into these diseases which kill a staggering amount of people in Africa but pose zero threat in the industrialized world. Clearly the making of the market is important but also needs to be temporary. There can be no sustainable improvement anywhere (or in any race if you are really that simplistic) if a single mosquito bite can kill a parents child.
davidzi: Your accusations of simplicity and stupidity were to be expected. If it appears as though I haven't stated my case here with striking clarity, and if it appears as though I'm not willing to spend a great deal of time defending my case here, it is because I feel it would be like fighting against the tide of American belief on a medium which is not intended for this purpose.
I don't think that we can have an earnest discussion about this topic here, but I'll say this: I find the common human belief that all human lives are equally meaningful to be, in your words, fairly stupid, because it is based on seeing a dividing line between human and animal consciousness that does not actually exist, and because humans exist on a gradient of intellectual and awareness abilities just like animals exist on such a gradient, and I have seen to my satisfaction that these gradients have overlap.
It therefore follows that if we want to enforce certain ethical standards on a population of all human beings, regardless of where they are, how developed they are or what position on the gradient of consciousness they occupy, then there is no consistent reason why we shouldn't also be enforcing our ethical standards on the great apes (chimpanzees also die of disease and kill each other), dolphins and whales (these are hunted and massacred violently by the Japanese), tigers, lions, and so on. There is no obvious place to draw a line, and there's no reason for a line to exist strictly between humans and animals.
That said, I believe we shouldn't go around the world abusing nor exploiting people nor animals, but I believe we should let them organize themselves, and if a being is capable of trade, we should trade with them on fair and free principles. Witness the Japanese: the human body, a sound mind and access to free, unrestricted trade are all that is necessary for a community to develop from zero to civilization in a matter of decades.
Africa is lacking access to free and unrestricted trade. That, not foreign intervention, is the first thing the protectionist economies of developed nations should address if African civilization is to develop.
But to the extent that Africa does have access to trade, and to the extent that they do have human bodies, they are missing the third necessary component: sound minds. That may be offensive to you in the United States, having been raised up in an environment of denial. But it will start to make sense to you as you grow old and Africa does not improve substantially in the following decades, regardless of the billions poured into it by generous humanitarians.
Without restoration of direct foreign rule, a native African civilization will not occur. It may be partially the fault of western economic protectionism and restriction on free trade on things where African export would be of value. But even so, I'm sorry, I've been following what's happening in Africa, and that is my prediction.
We'll see who's stupid and simplistic and 15 years.
SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH AFRICAN ECONOMICS EXPERT
"For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!"
The Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, 35, says that aid to Africa does more harm than good. The avid proponent of globalization spoke with SPIEGEL about the disastrous effects of Western development policy in Africa, corrupt rulers, and the tendency to overstate the AIDS problem.