We have recognized the tendency in human groups to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few. The processes of accumulating wealth are selfish and involve exploitation of human and natural resources. Concentration of wealth is not favorable for long term stability of societies and progress in human rights and justice requires redistribution of wealth. Government schemes for wealth redistribution are part of the solution. Philanthropy is the other of method of wealth redistribution that fits into a capitalist model of society. In the best case, an individual or group that achieves wealth by selfish means will become generous when their wealth exceeds a threshold which they themselves define. The new generosity also expresses the interests and ideas of the benefactors.
Donations of time, skills and money have proved to be a vital component of social progress. Corporations that become philanthropic contribute to the social good and gain public relations points. One generous act tends to inspire more generosity. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continued a grand tradition of philanthropy in the US with a stated goal “to reduce inequities in the United States and around the world. “ Bill Gates founded Microsoft, the world’s most successful software company which made Bill one the world’s richest men. Another of the world’s richest men, Warren Buffett and friend of Gates, added his Berkshire investment portfolio to the Gates foundation resources with the hope that his money could improve the lives of people around the world.
Bill and Melinda Gates stated their key principles:
“First, we concentrate on a few areas of giving so we can learn about the best approaches and have the greatest possible impact. We choose these issues by asking: which problems affect the most people, and which have been neglected in the past?
"Our Global Health Program focuses on diseases and health conditions that cause the most illness and death and receive the least attention and resources—diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria that barely exist in rich countries but still kill millions in the developing world. And AIDS, which infects 5 million new people every year, the vast majority of them in poor countries.
"We also believe in the power of science and technology to improve people’s lives. In recent years, the world has made tremendous advances in fields ranging from biology to information technology, and yet not everybody is benefiting from these innovations. Our goal is to help apply science and technology to the problems of the neediest people. “An editorial in Nature described the need to support innovators with “crazy ideas’ since most advances in science are not planned in advance but happen serendipitously. The editor pointed to the Gates Foundation as a model for other research agencies:
“Barry Marshall and Robin Warren's unorthodox idea that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori was involved in gastritis and peptic ulcers met with ingrained resistance from the guardians of stomach-acid wisdom in the 1980s. Against the odds, the two prevailed, revolutionizing care of the disease and receiving a Nobel prize in 2005. How many other potentially groundbreaking ideas are dragged down a dark alley and quietly strangled by overly conservative peer review of grant proposals? Research funding should strive for a balanced portfolio that includes both safe investments and higher-risk work. While the world's financial system has been inflated with wildly excessive risk, research funding has had the opposite problem — exacerbated by ever greater competition for limited funds, it is overly wedded to safe, unadventurous research. This, in effect, ostracizes off-the-wall ideas, which often cross disciplinary boundaries and would have potentially big payoffs should they work. Researchers long ago learned that the last people they should tell about their big ideas are their sources of financial support. To be fair, there are exceptions to such conservatism. The US National Institutes of Health, for example, has systematically promoted risky research through several initiatives.
"The Gates Foundation decided to cast the net wider in the search for new people and ideas. Last week, it announced the 104 winners of the first round of its five-year, US$100-million 'Grand Challenges Explorations' program. This solicited unconventional ideas for protecting against infectious diseases, limiting drug resistance and exploring latent tuberculosis. Future rounds will include ideas for vaccines for killer diseases and tools to help eradicate malaria. The grant proposal is one that many researchers can only dream of — a two-page explanation of the idea, with no supporting data required. To emphasize that it's the idea that matters, reviewers were blinded to the name, profession and nationality of the applicant. The reviewers themselves were atypical. Instead of consensus review by experts in the field — as is the norm — the 4,000-odd proposals received were sent to individuals, not just in science but also in engineering, business and beyond — people the foundation considers to be 'champions' with strong track records in high-risk research. Dishing out large sums of money on far-fetched ideas would be foolhardy, given that as many as nine out of ten of these projects are expected to fail. But those that show signs of success will be eligible for further funds of $1 million, or much more. Risk-taking brings new faces and ideas to the table at reasonable cost and spurs creativity. Research agencies everywhere need to take a hard look at their funding portfolios to ensure that they are investing sufficiently in high-risk and potentially transformative research.”