The Evolution of Noblesse Oblige

Andrew Carnegie:

We’ll buy a lot of books, and build a lot of places where working people can go and read them. This will help them better themselves, and in the process provide a more civilized future for all of us.

Bill Gates:

The country is not producing enough of the kind of people we’ll need for the future we’re creating. Beneficial change will require us to seize control of the school curriculum from clueless education experts and teacher’s union officials — an annoying, but essentially trivial task. First, we’ll buy their compliance. Then, if necessary, we’ll buy their gratitude.

Can it really be this simple? Probably not. Still, if you have kids, this might be a good time to take more seriously your own contribution to the world they’re going to be living in.

5 Comments

  1. Pedinska says:

    Bill Gates’ annoying, but essentially trivial task might be a bit easier to swallow if he would be so kind as to tell us exactly what kind of people we’ll need for the future we’re creating.

    Might be helpful to know what he thinks he’s creating as well, and he ought to maybe consult with the rest of us to see if we agree with his little vision. :-s

    Gates is getting uncomfortably close to Rove’s we create our own reality […] We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do. I guess we just need to acknowledge or get left behind. :-s

    Anywhoo, hope you are doing well. Myself and Mr. Pedinska just returned from a week at Powder Mountain where we were blessed to be able to use a condo that Arne Langsetmo’s family has at the top of the mountain (last year Arne joined us, this year he and his bride had other plans). Even as the world seems poised to spin off it’s center, it is comforting to me to realize that some ties stay sound, even if they sometimes seem a bit tenuous.

    • William Timberman says:

      Yeah, winter vacations…. My appreciation for them probably began years ago in Venice. The Piazza San Marco in the summer was a jammed arena, a place to get elbowed, buffeted, and shoved hither and thither by what seemed like half the population of Europe. In the winter, particularly during periods when the acqua alta was in its full glory, it became an empty, glistening mirror of the crumbling glories surrounding it. A silent, doubled jewel of a city laid out for a stunned American kid who’d never seen its like before, and never would again. Not a landscape made by God, like your snowy mountains, but impressive nevertheless.

      As for Bill Gates’s ambitions, we all tend to construct the world we inhabit from the center outwards, adjusting it as necessary to the demands placed on us by those who share it with us. Some of us are more rigorous in our initial demands than others, but it’s rare when even those of us given to fashioning complete manifestos are free to implement them without restraint. A good thing, I think, and reason enough to prefer democracy to oligarchy. Now if only we could get late capitalism to go along with the program….

  2. Hello Bill–
    Glad you’re here.

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