Like many other people, I've always held Apple's CEO (and now Disney Board Member) Steve Jobs in higher regard over Bill Gates but thinking back on it, I'm not sure why. Yes, Jobs put out a better product in my opinion than Gates, but Gates really has done so much more good in the world.
This article from yesterday's Wired News was a real eye-opener. See below-
Gates is giving away his fortune with the same gusto he spent acquiring it, throwing billions of dollars at solving global health problems. He has also spoken out on major policy issues, for example, by opposing proposals to cut back the inheritance tax.
In contrast, Jobs does not appear on any charitable contribution lists of note. And Jobs has said nary a word on behalf of important social issues, reserving his talents of persuasion for selling Apple products.
According to Forbes, Jobs was recently worth $3.3 billion which puts him among the 194th richest in the world, and makes him the 67th richest American. But the standings were shuffled on Tuesday with Disney's $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar Animation -- a deal that makes Jobs' Pixar holdings alone worth some $3.7 billion.
But great wealth does not make a great man.
Giving USA Foundation, a philanthropy research group which publishes an annual charity survey, said Jobs does not appear on lists of gifts of $5 million or more over the last four years. Nor is his name on a list of gifts of $1 million or more compiled by Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy.
Jobs' wife is also absent from these philanthropic lists, although she has made dozens of political donations totaling tens of thousands of dollars to the Democrats, according to the Open Secrets database.
If you don't believe that Bill Gates is doing a lot of good, go look up the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation some time. Here's their website: http://www.gatesfoundation.org
Wired does admit that we just may not know about Jobs' donations:
Of course, Jobs and his wife may be giving enormous sums of money to charity anonymously. If they are funneling cash to various causes in private, their names wouldn't show up on any lists, regardless of the size of their gifts.
For a person as private as Jobs, who shuns any publicity about his family life, this seems credible. If so, however, this would make Jobs virtually unique among moguls. Richard Jolly, chairman of Giving USA Foundation, said not all billionaires give their money away, but a lot do, and most do not do it quietly.
So sure, Steve MAY be giving millions away, but he never uses his many very public speaking engagements to tout any causes other than the products he wants us to buy.
Remember the THINK DIFFERENT apple ads?
Rather, he uses social issues to support his own selfish business goals. In the Think Different campaign, Jobs used cultural figures he admired to sell computers -- figures who stuck their necks out to fight racism, poverty, inequality or war.
And I think that says a lot about Jobs. Jobs doesn't give to charities, but he wants Apple to be the company that the sort of person who cares passionately about such causes will trust but he doesn't actually bother to do anything about it himself. Basically, he's an ultra-Capitalist, the very label many of us charge Bill Gates with.
Meanwhile, Bill is personally funding, as answers.org describes it:
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the world's largest charitable foundation, endowed by Bill Gates, chairman and founder of Microsoft, and his wife, Melinda Gates. It was created in January 2000 through the merger of the Gates Learning Foundation and the William H. Gates Foundation.
The foundation's grants have provided funds for underrepresented minority college scholarships, AIDS prevention, diseases that strike mainly in the Third World, and other causes. The Foundation currently provides 90% of the world budget for the attempted eradication of poliomyelitis (polio), the World Health Organization having "moved on" to other diseases. In June 1999, Gates and his wife donated US$5 billion to their foundation. They have donated more than US$100 million to help children suffering from AIDS. On January 26, 2005, it was announced that the Foundation had made a further contribution of US$750 million to the international Vaccine Fund to help fight diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, poliomyelitis and yellow fever. As of 2005, the foundation has an endowment of approximately US$28 billion. To maintain its status as a charitable foundation, it must donate at least 5 percent of its assets each year. Thus the donations from the foundation each year would at least amount to over $1 billion.
Yes, Microsoft has done some terrible anti-trust actions, but Bill hasn't run things there for years and I would say his good deeds far outweigh the bad.
At the end of their lives, I think we will finally realize that while Bill might have been an unethical businessman, he was a great person and while Steve may have been a terrific innovator, but he took all of his charisma and leadership and only used it to sell things to people with enough expendable income to afford them.
So, have we been wrong to villify gates and laud Jobs? Ashamedly, I believe we have been.