As a frequent entry on the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list, with a personal worth of roughly $59 billion, Bill Gates certainly would know something about wealth. However, he has recently commented that having as much personal capital as he does is more or less “overrated.”
And apparently, he would not mind settling for less than what he has, according to Geekwire.
“I can understand wanting to have millions of dollars, there’s a certain freedom, meaningful freedom, that comes with that. But once you get much beyond that, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburger. Dick’s [a Seattle-area fast-food chain] has not raised their prices enough,” Gates said at the University of Washington’s Computer Science & Engineering Department.
“But being ambitious is good. You just have to pick what you enjoy doing,” he added.
To be fair, Gates’ comments were prompted during the Q&A session when a student asked him how he could “be rich like him.” In an effort to remain diplomatic, most millionaire or billionaire businessmen would probably say anything but “follow your dreams” or “money isn’t everything.”
The last time a high-profile businessman proclaimed his right to profit, he was maligned and ridiculed.
And what Q&A session with a billionaire at a major university would be complete without a question about “income inequality”?
[Editors’s note: these are not verbatim quotes but a shorthand summary from Geekwire to “convey what was said as accurately as possible on the fly.”]
Student question: Growing disparity in wealth and income. Money concentrated in hands of just a couple people. You among them. You’re doing pretty good. (Laughter.)
But money influencing politics. Citizens United court case. Who has money influences information getting out. What should we be focusing on as a nation?
Gates: The world at large is less inequitable today than at any time in history. Number of people in abject poverty, as a percentage, is at all-time low. Innovation means it will continue to go down. I do think in most problems time is on our side. Absolutely right there are some big fortunes and it’s not good to have a society where you don’t have mobility between different income levels.
Education ought to be good enough to move between them. Maybe self-serving, but I wouldn’t say it’s because a few people are very rich, I’d say it’s because we aren’t doing a good enough job on education.
Warren Buffett and I are two wealthiest Americans. Believe rich should give away wealth more than they do. Warren is only person to have a tax named after him. You can be very frustrated with the political system, I certainly am. I met with House members to talk about science cuts. Don’t think getting rid of wealth will solve problems. Need to fix education system, get cost of health care down, and society will feel more equitable.