Bill Gates, Climate Change and the Capitalist System

rebelingBy Richard Ebeling - Posted November 8th, 2015


Bill Gates of Microsoft is one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, so when he speaks it is not surprising that the world tends to listen. In a recent interview, Gates has said that capitalism is inherently unable to solve the problem of global warming, and instead there have to be world-encompassing government-business “partnerships” to save Planet Earth.

In the November 2015 issue of “Atlantic” magazine, Bill Gates asserts that private enterprisers are too self-interested, too narrowly focused on short-run market profitability, not innovatively-oriented enough, and not sufficiently incentivized to develop on their own the needed alternative energy sources that can eliminate the use of fossil fuels by the middle of the twenty-first century.

Thus, the only answer is for governments to design an agenda and a plan of action to direct and subsidize the private enterprises that cannot be trusted to solve what he considers the leading problem facing everyone in the world: climate change and global warming.

Bill Gates’ Claim that Climate Change is Real and Government Can Fix It

He pushes aside anyone who questions that: (a) global warming is actually occurring in a scientifically meaningful sense, and (b) that “man” is a leading if not the primary cause of this threat to sustainable life on Earth.

He asserts that anyone who can do a little “math” should see the truth of humanity’s dilemma and the magnitude of its danger. I do not in anyway claim as an economist to know very much about the scientific evidence or its reliability. But there are enough natural scientists and social scientists whose judgment I trust and respect to believe that the case for climate change and global warming is not necessarily a “closed book,” with no basis for questioning the evidence or the climate models used to make the frequent forecasts of planetary doom that are bandied about.

But let us assume for the sake of the argument that the dire predictions were to be true. And that the projected and feared increases in average temperature around the globe threaten to have some or many of the negative effects that are often warned about.

Is Bill Gates correct in his bad-mouthing of private enterprise and his praising of the superiority of government direction and subsidizing of businesses to find solutions to the problem, if it exists?

A number of news and editorial outlets that have commented on Bill Gates’ remarks have said that he declares that only “socialism” can save the planet. In fact, he never uses the word socialism anywhere in the interview, as best as I can tell. But his comments do raise the issue of the institutions of a market economy versus the workings of the political process.

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