Foreign Policy Blogs

Kinder Capitalism

Bill Gates spoke at the Davos Conference yesterday and made a call for a kinder, more creative form of capitalism that will provide services and products that the poor need. He's absolutely right, the medicines and agricultural technologies needed by those in poor countries don't get the attention they deserve. There are profits to be made from these services, and the poor could still benefit. I worry that Gates might think that reforming capitalism is a silver bullet, though. There isn't a silver bullet for global poverty. Pro-poor capitalism would be another great tool, but it isn't going to solve everything on its own.

The WSJ asked former World Bank economist (and all around dour pessimist) William Easterly to comment, and he was skeptical. “There's a lot of people at the bottom of the pyramid but the size of the transactions is so small it is not worth it for private business most of the time.”

Finally, my favorite quote, because it could only come from the WSJ. “With today's speech, Mr. Gates adds his high-profile name to the ranks of those who argue that unfettered capitalism can't solve broad social problems” (italics mine). Next, Mr. Gates is going to take the controversial, forward-thinking position that the common cold is actually caused by a virus.



Kevin Dean

Kevin Dean is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in international conflict management and humanitarian emergencies at Georgetown University. Before returning to school in Fall 2006, he spent six years working in the former Soviet Union - most of that time spent in Central Asia. He has managed a diverse range of international development programs for the US State Department and USAID. He has also consulted for several UN agencies and international NGOs, and is fluent in Russian. Kevin is originally from Des Moines, Iowa and studied Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Iowa.