Corporate Philanthropy: What’s Wrong with This Idea?

Robert Barro challenges Bill Gates’s view of how to help the world in a column in the Wall Street Journal.

In case you don’t recognize the name, Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft, a local company here in the Pacific Northwest.  (And in case you’re really out of touch, Robert Barro is a Harvard economist and a lion in the field.)

Barro’s point:  Gates did a huge amount of good for the world in running Microsoft.  In fact, he probably did more to help the world’s poor by providing software than he’ll ever be able to do giving away his fortune.  I once made the same argument to a very rich person–Forbes 400 rich–trying to convince him that his work had done more good for the world than had his philanthropy.  I failed to convince him, but I still believe that aside from a few corporate scoundrels, business leaders do more good providing goods and services than from donations to their favorite charities.