Is Bill Gates A Closet Libertarian?

By Owen Heimsoth | USA

Bill Gates, the second richest man in the world and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hosted a Reddit AMA last week that showed his proclivity for controversial opinions.

Questions flew in from users of the popular social media site: What do you think of Bitcoin? What is your opinion on Elon Musk? How did you amass your wealth? Surprisingly, Mr. Gates gave a few particularly libertarian answers to those questions.

For example: Do you think in the near future, we will have another financial crisis similar to the one in 2008?

Gates replied, “Yes. It is hard to say when but this is a certainty. Fortunately, we got through that one reasonably well. Warren has talked about this and he understands this area far better than I do. Despite this prediction of bumps ahead, I am quite optimistic about how innovation and capitalism will improve the situation for humans everywhere.”

To be fair, it would be baffling if the second richest man in the world said that capitalism doesn’t work. However, he stated this on an economically left-leaning site with popular subreddits like r/latestagecapitalism, which has over 250k subscribers.

Another question: “While the Gates Foundation is tackling several major issues, it seems like transport is an important issue that is overlooked. Specifically, the impediments of inadequate transportation or inefficient transportation is a major contributor to a number of issues including poverty, vaccine delivery, education, etc. Having spent over 25 years in the transportation analysis field, I keep coming to the same conclusion that transportation is an important, but undervalued issue in bettering the human condition. Has this been tackled or discussed within your circles?”

In his response, Gates once again showed off his liberty-oriented thinking. He declared, “I think the private market rewards innovation in this space quite well. I think electric cars and autonomous vehicles will be great things. The Foundation is experimenting with drone delivery of medical supplies with a grantee in Rwanda and Tanzania. I am not sure the hyperloop concept makes sense – making it safe is hard.”

In this instance, Gates is clearly advocating for private market dominance over government when it comes to travel infrastructure. This comment could also come in reference to Elon Musk’s companies, who have shown dominance over their public sector counterparts.

The last but perhaps most notable comment came after a very popular question from u/BZDM: “You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but would you consider running for President in 2020?” The reddit user then commented on the divisive politics in the United States currently and outlined problems in our political climate. Following this, he said that he thinks that Bill Gates could fix these problems. The full comment can be found here.

Gates responded, “I do think people are expecting too much from Government. Yes, Government can do better but local groups can do a lot that government can’t – helping out in schools, reaching out to people in poverty. This is also true internationally. I would like to see this civil society sector step up a lot more. Some issues like abortion or even immigration we may never get a consensus on but there are things like better health and better education that we can achieve.”

By advocating for citizens to help themselves, Gates appears to reject reliance on government. His belief that local community programs do a better job in aiding the people fits closely with libertarian principles.

Clearly, Gates has some elements of libertarianism in his views on politics and society. Yet, how does his past correlate to, or break from, these beliefs?

This report, dating from 1999 to 2014, shows that his donations to Republicans and Democrats are nearly even. In some instances, he gave slightly more money to Democrats. Various other studies on his spending towards political campaigns also show about the same numbers. Since 1999, Gates his donated just below $450,000 to political organizations and campaigns.

Interestingly, this even division holds true, even down to the day. Gates gave $15,000 to the Democratic National Congressional Committee on the same day he donated $2,500 to Senator Marco Rubio’s reelection bid. Thirteen days earlier, he donated $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It is fair to say that Gates donates evenly, making his political ideology increasingly unclear.

Clearly, Bill Gates has shown he likely stands in the middle on most issues. While he showed some right-libertarian tendencies today, consistent donations to both Democrats and Republicans make it hard to believe he holds a firm ideology outside of the corporatism that benefits himself.

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