In a nutshell, Gates gives large amounts of money to charity, but with as much as he has what else can you do with it? His wealth is astronomical. As of 2022 he owns more than $130 billion, and every second he is richer by nearly $500. But what practical use could all such money be to himself? He could afford to buy some entire nations, but they are not for sale. The fact is that he might as well give some of it away, but that does not make him a good guy.

Epstein & Gates

Gates with Epstein and other Friends


We also need to consider his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, a late trafficker and provide of under-age girls. Gates became a friend of his in 2011 soon after Epstein had been released from jail for soliciting underage girls three years earlier. Gates' friendship with Epstein seems to have been a major factor in his wife divorcing him. Despite Gates' deeply unattractive appearance and personality, he had always been a womaniser.

Gates must have known about Epstein's previous crime, and Epstein's attitude towards it, because in a 2011 conversation with two members of Gates' charity team, Epstein dismissed his procuring prostitution from underage girls as no worse than "stealing a bagel". Gates later tried to justify visiting Epstein by saying he found Epstein's lifestyle "intriguing". When asked what it was in Epstein's house that was so intriguing, Gates claimed it was the decor.

It is easy to quote figures about Gates' riches, but difficult, if not impossible, to grasp what they mean in practical terms. The term "astronomical" is often used lightly in various contexts, but the similarity between Gates' wealth and astronomical distances is that both are beyond any value that a human brain can truly visualise; the bare figures can be written down but hardly convey the meaning of them.

Nevertheless some thought experiments with his wealth are interesting, and show that he could not possible "enjoy" his wealth directly.

Suppose that for his 20 remaining years he spends all his money (capital of $130 billion plus income of $40 million per day, totalling $292,000,000,000) on himself - on cars at an average price of $30,000. He could buy 9 million of them. Assume he spends half his time with his cars (the other half sleeping, eating and visiting his optician). He would need to buy a new car about every minute. He would not have time to walk between them and just get in and out of the driving seats, let alone drive all of them. He could only take a tiny fraction of those cars even for short runs, and the vast majority would be duplicates of each other anyway. Alternatively, he could just spend an hour's worth of his income on a modest 60 cars and actually enjoy driving a different one every week of the year. In other words, he can only "enjoy" a tiny fraction of his money even buying relatively expensive things like cars.

Of course, he could buy more expensive things than cars (and does) such as old masters. However, there are not a third of a trillion dollar's worth of old masters in the world to be had, even if they were for sale, and at auctions he would outrun any rival bidding long before his money ran out.

Gates is in a situation like that in "Brewster's Millions", with the difference that it is billios, and he is allowed to give it away. The time he has available to "enjoy" all his wealth is insufficient by orders of magnitude. He has stated that he will not leave much to his children. So he will die with the vast majority of it still in the bank unless he gives most of it away before then. There is really not much else he can do with it, and the amount of money he has given away has made absolutely no difference to his personal lifestyle.

Gates has given a lot to charity, but to assess the donor we must consider that a "lot" is relative, and we are reminded of the Biblical story of the widow's mite. He may be genuinely concerned about the people he aims to benefit (anyone feels sorry for sickness victims), but he is also "buying" positive karma for himself. It is common for very wealthy men to do this towards the end of their lives - Rockefeller, Carnegie and Nobel for example. Nobel, who invented an explosive, was called "The Merchant of Death" in his lifetime, but is now remembered for his Peace Prize; Gates similarly does not wish to be remembered for the dirty and illegal tricks his company has played under his leadership; there were certainly those [there are some links in the Reference page] but they would be the subject of another website.