Gates vs. Jobs: Who’s the Better Billionaire?

The two giants of the digital world have been compared with side by side to death. But at the end of the day, who’s the better billionaire?

According to Leander Kahney from wired.com,

It’s Gates who’s making a dent in the universe, and Jobs who’s taking on the role of single-minded capitalist, seemingly oblivious to the broader needs of society.

Gates is giving away his fortune with the same gusto he spent acquiring it, throwing billions of dollars at solving global health problems. He has also spoken out on major policy issues, for example, by opposing proposals to cut back the inheritance tax.

In contrast, Jobs does not appear on any charitable contribution lists of note. And Jobs has said nary a word on behalf of important social issues, reserving his talents of persuasion for selling Apple products

[…]

Jobs can’t even get behind causes that would seem to carry deep personal meaning, let alone lasting social importance. Like Lance Armstrong, he is a cancer survivor. But unlike Armstrong, Jobs has so far done little publicly to raise money or awareness for the disease.

Given Jobs’ social detachment, I’m confused by the adulation he enjoys. Yes, he has great charisma and his presentations are good theater. But his absence from public discourse makes him a cipher. People project their values onto him, and he skates away from the responsibilities that come with great wealth and power.

An article from the Economist emphasizes instead on how Jobs’ impact on humanity is best measured not in terms of gifts to the poor, but on chances created for the middle class.

Moreover, at a time when so many suffer feelings of economic insecurity and powerlessness, mysterious technologies like the iPad give those who can afford them an escapist sense of versatile efficacy that is no less powerful for being fantasy. Indeed, Apple has marketed the iPad 2 in cultishly reverent advertisements as “magical“; it accomplishes the wondrous by inconceivable means all within a ravishing frame. Steve Jobs is a white wizard in wire rims who offers unto us, in exchange for the fruits of mere days or weeks of labour, mesmerising portals to a better, beautiful, more enchanted world where we can have our whim with the flick of a forefinger. It seems small to begrudge the great man the sum of our eager ritual offerings. So who gives a fig if he doesn’t shower his billions upon worthy causes, or write self-flagellating op-eds demanding to pay more in taxes? Never mind the patent thuggery. Never mind the miseries of Foxconn. An iPhone is a small enchanting comfort in a harsh, disenchanting world. We’ll make Mr Jobs even richer, if he gives us a chance.

Who, in your opinion, is the better billionaire? Why?

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