an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

Volume 3, July 2006, ISSN 1552-5112





Gates’ Buffet, or Fail-Safe Philanthropy


Nicholas Ruiz III





Warren Buffett donates billions to one of his billionaire brethren Bill Gates.  Impressive?  Predictably gratuitous.  ‘Impressive,’ would have been to send the world a check.  Yes, divide the money and distribute it—that’s charity.

                        To transfer the money to his surrogate son impresses no one.  Rather, such is an advance in the name of a concentration of power on Wall St.  Like Al Gore’s ‘benevolent’ long term equity fund, Buffett passes the Delphic torch of Capital to its latest rational heir.  Atlas shrugs.

            Where Generation Investment Management (Gore is the Chairman) allocates five percent (why not 10, 20 or 50%--or even all of it?) of the trading profits to ‘non-profit’ sustainability research, the Gates Foundation philanthropizes its Capital in the name of global health and education.  Healthy, literate markets (consumers) are always in demand of hamburgers, cherry soda and personal computer technology, no?

            In Friedman’s world, flatness is a conduit of Capital to be harnessed by this nation or that one, a veritable landscape of individuals competing for prizes: a rational flatness.[1]  Everyone wants to achieve this flatness, and dominate within it.  Everyone has to be part of this game: within it the dream is to be famous.    A negative function of Friedman’s ‘novel’ flat world: therein Capital is allowed to flatten everything in its path to a brilliant desert, if under fluorescent light.  Nothing will soon live outside the electric tundra of such anthropic flatness.  Sure, health and education will become viral and that has its perks; no one desires to be ill or illiterate.  Philanthropy will do some work.

            Still, we trade this viral health for a sickness of culture, and that is our sacrifice.

            Markets at home are saturated, so health and education concerns globalize via the fertilization of postmodern philanthropy. The candy in the heels of Capital can beget forgiveness from even the most vicious histories it has produced.  Such a sweetness keeps the world nipping at its heels; especially among the ‘philanthropists,’ and ‘environmentally-minded’ hedge funds, mutual funds and so on.  In the same manner, an ‘ethics’ is always an ethics of Capital, ultimately.  Think of the American Red Cross, and their refusal of the Dixie Chicks’ gift of $1 million in 2003 on account of their criticism of our American commander in chief. In this case, the political Capital the Cross could earn from the aristocracy was of greater currency to their ‘philanthropic’ sensibilities; greater than the currency they could spend in the name of American ‘charity’.  So it goes without saying that without a sustainable planet for Al Gore and his Generation Investment Management investors; well, there is no profit in that for anyone. 

            ‘Philanthropy’ is an interesting word—loosely, ‘love of humanity or mankind.’  Perhaps it is such an affection that leads to magnanimous accumulations of wealth—a love of the human race.  At the endpoint of orgiastic opulence and billionaire comforts, perhaps such a love of people arises.  I doubt it.

            Perhaps it is something else that arises. 

            Perhaps after a certain abstraction of relative gain, Capital becomes a philosopher’s stone of universal redemption?  After one is so far ahead of the entire species, in terms of numeric materiality and Capital gains, suppose that an economy of personal acquisition is replaced by an economy of Capital altruism; a  benefaction of Capital?  Since Capital represents the great chain of accumulation, a divine and replicative chain of being, what purpose might beneficence serve within it? Or is such a benefit a reverse altruism, a covert protocol of self-preservation wherein all is explained by the merger and consolidation of the forces of fortune?  Love, or optimization?

The architecture of the world today, in truth, does not allow for charity, only Capital’s salvation.  In this newly publicized circulation of giving, there resides only the accounting of receipts.  So Buffett, the second richest American white man in the world gives $37 billion to Gates, the richest American white man in the world. Bravo.  Why not give $1000 to each of the 37 million U.S. citizens living in U.S. census-defined poverty as of 2004, up in number by 1.1 million since 2003?[2]

So you see, ‘charity’ (from the Latin cāritās, love or regard) is not what is at stake here, but something else, that will circulate today as ‘philanthropy,’ but is essentially the self-interest of Capital masquerading as good will.  If good will is achieved, assuredly, that will be a side-effect of the broader concern of its opposite.  Capital’s other-ism (altruism) is always a retainer of some Coded objective of replicative and self-sustaining bliss.  Perhaps that is the way of the world.




an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

Volume 3, July 2006, ISSN 1552-5112 






[1] Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat, New York; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (2005)

[2] “Poverty: 2004 Highlights” from the U.S. Census Bureau: