Proudhon may be right, but did Bill Gates steal his billions?

Fri, 15 Apr 2016 Source: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

I don’t think I will be veering to far from right if I should argue that 19th century Europe was the twilight years of European Renaissance. It was a dynamic century of scientific, economic and sociological thought in both conservative and leftist leanings. It produced giants like Spencer, Darwin, Dickens, Marx, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Dumas and lot of impatient radicals, besides numerous pamphleteers with vigorous pens. Among them was a French thinker by the name Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. He was a scholar in his own right, but became famous for the phrase ‘property is theft’. The validity of that statement is debatable; perhaps, it will lead to a sanguinary discourse if it’s animated by passionate opposing camps. However, I wouldn’t consider that, at present, any thinking person, except a few who share a tangent with lunatics, to answer in the affirmative.

This statement, which might have some semblance to the truth during the warring years of the Europeans, when pillage and looting was the order of the day, still shapes the thinking of modern day progressives. It was made at a time when the dynamics of the means of production have gone through prodigious transformation. It was animated at an epoch when the galley slaves have been liberated by the steam engine, and the serfs and feudal system of production have been vanquished by the power looms, mechanised harvesters etc. – superior forms of production. And the village blacksmith had been replaced by the blast furnace. What is unpardonable were the countless rags to riches stories that spiced the conversation of European drawing rooms made possible by the new order of wealth creation.

A couple of months ago a news cycle hit the airwaves that gave the progressives and the socialists countless, but ridiculous playground argument to spout about. It reported that Oxfam, a UK based charity organisation, has done a research which concluded that 62 of the world’s wealthiest people own the net worth of half of the world’s population. I never gave it a second thought, because I felt it was a recycling of those useless headlines, which does nothing, but create diversion for the real problems of the poor. Furthermore, its effect was to inflame the passions of hoodlums and some bohemians to go on demonstration and smash things. As I laid the ghost of that headline to rest, a piece that I wrote a couple of weeks ago succeeded in reviving its cadaver. One commentator tried to point my attention to the effect that the Oxfam research demolishes my argument in favour of capitalism as a superior form of creating wealth. I wanted to let it go, but I am not used to keeping my silence to such affront to human reason. The fact is I am worried about the way they calibrate their high sounding meaningless arguments and words to its most fatal effect to those who create the wealth that makes the world amiable to live in. Regardless of the chaos their beliefs create wherever it is tried, they will not let go this evil ideology, which is making the whole world staring in the abyss. Nine years on since the 2007 financial quake, none of the major economies is able to maintain a consistent 2.5% growth.

Poverty is part of the human condition. Jesus speaking to Judas about 2,000 years ago said the poor shall always be with you. There is nothing that any human mind can wrought to change it; we can only hope for it in that perfect place called paradise. That is if such a place is not only a figment of the human imagination. Poverty can be dealt a lethal blow when we increase productivity. It can be suppressed when the pie available is a bigger pie. You cannot do it by taking what others have and redistribute it; it’s immoral, insane and a death wish mentality. It does nothing but render everyone poor like in our own backyard.

I will entreat those who can think positively to trek with me to this oasis of thought to wrestle with a bit of inspiration. Most of the people who create the great riches of the world found a novel way of wealth creation. One of the greatest is Henry Ford. His wealth at the time of his death, in 1947, stood at $199 billion in today’s value, which is more than twice what Bill Gates is worth now. Ford made his fortune in the motor industry. He found a cheaper way of producing cars for the public and he became fabulously rich in the process. At the time he designed his Model T, comparable cars were sold at $2,000 or more, and he slashed the cost by more than half to $850. As a result, his sales shot to the roof. It is through his high volume of sales that made him fantastically rich. He did not rip anybody off nor rob as they describe the so called mythical robber barons. The consumer benefited prodigiously. He did the world an incalculable good; efficiently allocating the resources of the world. What he created, besides the wealth, enabled a lot of Americans to make tangible the proverbial American dream. Currently, the world is dying for a new form of energy to power her industry, besides keeping warm in the temperate countries and cooling off in the tropics. Anybody who is able to come up with an idea or innovation will be the first trillionaire. I think the progressives should consider that.

Rockefeller was able to bring his products to the public at a fraction of the going prices and he became unimaginably rich. At the time, kerosene which was used in lighting homes was very expensive for many people. This man made it possible for most Americans to light their homes at a cheaper cost, but all that people remember is the millions he made for himself. Think about it if you control 65% of an important industry you are going to make a lot of money. Yet, these so called educated progressives think like children having picnic. For example, a whole Nobel Prize winner, like Paul Krugman, write infinite nonsense about this man that bear no relation to historical facts. And the most important fact is Rockefeller did not force people to give him their money nor sell them shoddy products, but provided them with the best at a very low cost. Without the extremely low prices of gasoline, the car revolution in America wouldn’t have taken off. The reality is many people would have seriously considered the cost of running a car before making their purchases. The world is a better place because of this man.

When computers came along those who operated it used to wear white coat and go through laborious process to get the contraption to work. Then came along an indomitable like Bill Gates, who eliminated all those processes with programmed software, which made the computer user friendly. Almost everyone on this celestial body has been touched by this man one way or the other. A poor person who lives in a village somewhere drinks water that was pumped to him by an engineer who used a computer powered by Microsoft operating system. This man who has added so much value unto our lives with what he has created, the progressives want him to bleed before they see what he has done. I put a rhetorical question to those progressives, how many lives has the Oxfam touched in their operation. The donations of the poor that comes to them finance the big salaries of the executives, just like what happens in most of the high profile NGOs all over the world who pocket obscene sums, some to the tune of half a million per annum, not to mention their board members who take home six figure salaries. I think Mark Goldring will do well to tell his fraternity to stop their debauchery rather directing his arsenal on those who create the wealth of the world.

It will be very difficult to quantify the value Gates has added to the world, but my estimates will be in the trillions. So he takes a cut of less than $100 billion out of the trillions he has created and people are jealous. We should rather celebrate this man with all the pomp that there is in the world. And all that some cheap hack will say is that he is richer than Ghana. Of course, he is, and if Nkrumah had allowed the cocoa industry in Ghana to have been managed by the private sector, and not fleece them to finance the wasted projects that litter the length and breadth of the country you wouldn’t be reading this. A word to the wise is more than enough.

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr



Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina