Consider the following statements, made by the same man eight years apart. "Eventually, being 'poor' won't be as much a matter of living in a poor country as it will be a matter of having poor skills." That was Bill Gates talking in 1992. Way back then, the Microsoft chairman's image was that of a rather harsh, libertarian-leaning fellow who proudly declared his products alone would "change the world." When asked what he would do with his billions, the boy wonder of Silicon Valley used to shrug off the question, saying his long workdays didn't leave time for charity. But now listen to the same Gates—or perhaps not quite the same Gates—talking in the fall of 2000: "Whenever the computer industry has a panel about the digital divide and I'm on the panel, I always think, 'OK, you want to send computers to Africa, what about food and electricity— those computers aren't going to be that valuable... The mothers are going to walk right up to that computer and say: 'My children are dying, what can you do?'"
Yes, even Bill Gates, the iconic capitalist of our day, seems to have come around. The self-assured Gates of 1992 was obviously a man of his times, confident of his industry's ability to change the world, certain that the power of markets and new technology, once unleashed, would address most of the world's ills. But the more skeptical Gates of the new millennium is someone who evinces a passion for giving and government aid. He shares a growing realization, even in the multibillionaire set, that something is amiss with the ideology that has prevailed since the end of the cold war: global-capitalism-as-panacea.