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Billionaires: the good, the bad and the mean

By Lyn Bender - posted Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Millionaires are passé and we now have billionaires as our benchmark of success. A small percentage of the population reach these illustrious heights and even fewer reach the pinnacle.

More rarely do the super rich achieve the guru like status of Bill Gates, currently the world’s richest man. He came to Australia recently, on his private jet, for a whirlwind 12 hour visit, to deliver a lesson in sharing. He chastised Australia for reneging on its promised foreign aid. Bill Gates is currently working on the eradication of polio and (after that) malaria from the world disease list. That has to be an unequivocally good thing. Gates who is also aware of the extreme threat of climate change, does not advocate the denial promoted by many of the rich. Gates  declares  that we have to get to zero emissions and has many ideas  on how we might achieve this. He enunciates  his views without malice, but in full possession of the facts.

His style and delivery have lead some to surmise that he is on the high level autism spectrum , formerly described as Aspergers . Gates shares this hypothesised ‘honour’ with Albert  Einstein Bach and Beethoven


He  is highly intelligent, gifted and  scientifically informed, although he comes across as oddly detached. His devotion to his Foundation’s work is focused and unrelenting.    

On the other hand  Gina Rinehart our very own $22.02 B  billionaire, is famous for her ability to  amass  money rather than to share or dispense it with any largesse, or  on charitable endeavours. In fact Australia’s richest person, has incurred wrath

for advocating for lower wages for workers. Gina has implied that Australia’s poor are bringing it all on themselves through laziness smoking and drinking. Gina has also bank rolled infamous climate denier Lord Monkton,  to promote her own money making fossil fuel agenda. Given that global warming is now on track, to a future of rising beyond the    unthinkable catastrophic  4degrees  Gina’s stance is heinous on so many counts. The propagating of false ‘facts’ about the climate, has delayed action and is causing and will continue to cause immense  suffering and the loss of millions, if not billions of lives . This puts her actions in the unethical  category. Gina is not alone in this. The American oil billionaires  Koch brothers who have vowed, to delay delay and delay progress to renewable energy are reported to have channelled $67 million to climate denial front organisations since 1997.

But what of the good guys, Warren Buffet, who together with Bill Gates initiated The Giving Pledge for the super rich. Buffett   trumped the new club and gave away  $3.084  Billion to philanthropy. Over 114 wealthy people have sighed up to give away big money for good causes.

Along with wife Melinda, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet  have been praised as the most effective altruistic people in history by Philosopher Peter Singer.

Gates declines to accept this vanity. “I don’t consider myself as philanthropic, as someone who has less money and who gives in such a way that they deny themselves some pleasure,” he said.


“I don’t deny myself – you know, [as though I must] have less food so I have more to give or I won’t go to the movies or I won’t have a vacation – I’m able to take care of the    things I want and be philanthropic.

 He still after all, has his 66,000 square house and travels on his private jet.

“So although the numbers are very big, [in donations] in some ways it’s showing less of a real moral trade-off than those who are poor and give. Those people are amazing.”

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About the Author

Lyn Bender is a psychologist in private practice. She is a former manager of Lifeline Melbourne and is working on her first novel.

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