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November 22, 2013

TT: Bill Gates, idiot

In today's Wall Street Journal "Sightings" column I take disapproving note of a foolish statement by Bill Gates about philanthropy. Here's an excerpt.

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The big news in the art world last week was the record-busting auction at Christie's in which $142.4 million--a worldwide auction record for any work of art--was spent on "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," a 1969 triptych by Francis Bacon. You don't have to be a Marxist or an advocate of sumptuary laws to be made queasy by such numbers, much less to wonder whether something has gone wrong with the values of the world of art.

That said, it's one thing to bristle at big-bucks art auctions and another altogether to go along with Bill Gates, who said in a recent interview with the Financial Times that...well, I'll cite the story verbatim, since his remarks won't win any prizes for clarity:

9620113_rd.jpg"Quoting from an argument advanced by moral philosopher Peter Singer, for instance, [Gates] questions why anyone would donate money to build a new wing for a museum rather than spend it on preventing illnesses that can lead to blindness. 'The moral equivalent is, we're going to take one per cent of the people who visit this [museum] and blind them,' he says. 'Are they willing, because it has the new wing, to take that risk? Hmm, maybe this blinding thing is slightly barbaric.'"...

Mr. Gates thinks it immoral for rich people to give money to museums instead of medical projects, presumably those that have received the official Bill Gates Seal of Moral Approval. To be sure, he deserves full credit for putting his own money where his mouth is: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gives away some $4 billion a year, much of which is used to support health-related initiatives in developing countries, including a world-wide initiative to stamp out polio.

Good for him--but when it comes to art, he's got it all wrong, and then some....

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Read the whole thing here.

Posted November 22, 2013 12:00 AM

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