Justice Department Goes After Gates' Foundation
by Walter Block
SEATTLE, WA — After the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced plans to donate five billion dollars to help rebuild libraries destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division launched a formal investigation into the Foundation. Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General, said in a press release that, "The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest charity cartel, has overstepped its boundaries and entered into the realm of predatory pricing. How is FEMA supposed to compete with private charities?"
The Gates' Foundation had been under close scrutiny for restraint of trade in the charity industry for several months. According to some reports, the Foundation's Herfindahl Index was too monopolistic, exerting "undue influence on the philanthropy sector." According to one trustbuster, "The four firm concentration ratio (CR4) is in the stratosphere. A Herfindahl Index above 2000 indicates acute concentration. The Gates' numbers are at least double that. This is dangerous." Charities, including the United Way and the Salvation Army were among those pushing for the investigation, citing the Foundation's recent gift of 37 billion dollars by Warren Buffett.
Up until the donation to the Gulf Coast, however, the Justice Department had largely been silent. However, after hearing that Bill Gates looked to the evil monopolists John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie as inspiration for his philanthropy, it took only days before Mr. Barnett officially decided to launch the investigation.
The investigation, cheered on by Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain, has bipartisan support. Both McCain and Clinton released a joint statement, averring that, "The free market is a wonderful thing, but how can we expect the government and other organizations to match the giving power of Gates? The free market in philanthropy is going to give us the same results as the free market in computers and electronics: exploitation."
Leading economists are hailing the decision as a step towards perfect competition. Dr. Paul Krugman of Princeton University has noted that, "Except for the political arena, all areas of the economy need perfect competition. Although to you lay people u2018trust-busting' may seem to drive up prices and prop-up inefficient, government-subsidized corporations, a Ph.D. in economics will reveal that you are all morons."
Similarly, Columbia University's Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz warned against "Big Charity." To the cheers of an electrified meeting of antitrust lawyers and economists, Professor Stiglitz roared, "We must fight oligopoly wherever it rears its ugly head. We must fight the reckless capitalist — be he philanthropist or proctologist. Evidently, Bill Gates learned nothing, absolutely, nothing, from our recent antitrust case against Microsoft. Well, it is time, nay it is past time, to teach him another lesson; this time to his so-called u2018Foundation'."