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The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire

November 20, 2023

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A powerful investigation of the Gates Foundation, interrogating how Bill Gates uses philanthropy as a political tool with no accountability.


BillGatesProblem.jpgThrough philanthropy, Bill Gates has transformed himself from a tech villain to one of the most admired people on the planet. Even as divorce proceedings and allegations of workplace misconduct have recently tarnished his public image, the beneficence of the Gates Foundation, celebrated for spending billions to save lives around the globe, is taken as a given. But as Tim Schwab shows in this fearless investigation, Gates is still exactly who he was at Microsoft: a bully and monopolist who believes he should control the fields in which he works, whether it is vaccine policy or software markets. At the core, he is not a selfless philanthropist but a power broker, a genius engineer who has innovated a method to turn extreme wealth into undemocratic political power. As his charitable foundation benefits from billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies (and spends only a small fraction of his staggering fortune), it answers to no one, enabling Gates to shape global policy in public health, education, and agriculture in whatever way he decides.

Piercing the blinding halo that has for too long shielded the world’s most powerful charitable organization from public scrutiny, The Bill Gates Problem offers groundbreaking reporting into how Gates’s billions have purchased influence over public policy, private markets, scientific research, and the news media. Whether he is pushing new educational standards in America, health reforms in India, or industrial agriculture throughout Africa, Gates’s heady social experimentation often runs counter to the needs and desires of intended beneficiaries, and often does more harm than good. His assumed leadership over the pandemic proved to be the ultimate referendum, as Gates’s dogmatic beliefs in market-based solutions and intellectual property played a crucial role in keeping COVID vaccines from poorer countries.

Like dark-money campaign contributions or big-business political lobbying, Bill Gates’s philanthropic empire should be seen as a problem of money in politics, a cautionary tale about the dangers of extreme wealth, and an illustration of the growing appearance of oligarchy in global governance. It is a model of unconstrained power that threatens democracy and demands our attention.


About the Author

Tim Schwab is an investigative journalist based in Washington, DC. His groundbreaking reporting on the Gates Foundation, published in The Nation, Columbia Journalism Review and The British Medical Journal, has been honored with an Izzy Prize and a Deadline Club Award. The Bill Gates Problem is his first book.


We have 20 copies available, provided by Metropolitan Books. The giveaway ends on Monday, November 27th.


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