Monday, January 08, 2007

Letter to Bill Gates Senior

Sunday's LATimes brought this article:,0,6827615.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Dear Mr Gates,
Since this article was in the LATimes, you have, by now, probably been deluged with letters scolding you for the hypocrisy of helping with one hand while hurting with another.
May I make a suggestion?
Your wealth and high profile combined with your percentage of ownership in companies like ENI give you an inordinate amount of clout and while the vaccination program and the other vital health initiatives you support or have originated are wonderful, with direct benefit to the poorest people on earth, you could help them far more by policing your assets.
ENI flares off it's gas because doing otherwise would negatively impact shareholders profits. They don't factor the effects on people and the environment onto the balance sheet, they "externalize" them. Soon there will be a law outlawing flaring, but no one expects the giant oil companies to comply. As a high profile share holder, you can rally the support of other shareholders to force the company y'all own to clean up it's operations.
I know that it runs counter to everything that Biz Majors are taught, but externalizing the liabilities to maximum profits at the cost of our families and our habitat are truly penny-wise-pound-foolish.
I have never poked into where you keep your fortune, it's none of my business, but I would guess that your holdings are relatively diversified. If you went through your portfolio, dug out the dirty and dangerous aspects of those companies' operations and brought shareholder pressure on their executives, right there, you could be doing great good for the greatest number of our race and our world. By organizing your fellow investors and motivating them to do the same, you could achieve what governments and millions of people who are not investors, cannot.
There probably is an algorithm that could determine a value on environmental degradation or human misery for accounting purposes, whether it registers a high enough value remains to be seen. It's not in use because there is no column for it in most ledgers.
By inserting that column into the books of the companies you hold stock in, you might just save the whole planet.

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