Score card. On the negative side, his company is predatory, anti-competitive and monopolistic. Microsoft’s products are not the best you can get, but by God they will force you to use them anyway. They have driven other companies, both large and small, out of business, even if those other companies made better products. (So much for the market as a force for separating the wheat from the chaff.)
On the plus side he is now, with his wife, a significant philanthropist, mainly focusing on the elimination of rampant diseases like Malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS in Africa. Surely, this is a good thing.
So, does one cancel out the other? Does he become a saint now that he’s a philanthropist? Does the good wipe out the bad? If one does what is generally accepted as a bad thing (and Microsoft continues to defy legislation and decisions in Europe to limit its monopolistic grasp, so they are not exactly repentant or reformed) and then also does what is perceived as a good thing — helping the poor, supporting institutions of learning, building hospitals — is one forgiven? Should one be forgiven? Is there any connection at all, or should each deed be viewed solely on its own merits?
Are alms from Mr. Burns (Homer Simpson’s boss) tainted? Or does it not matter where money for good causes comes from? One does not fault the sun for sometimes burning people or causing devastating heat waves. One takes the good, the warmth and energy of the sun, and hopes the bad doesn’t happen too often. One assumes the source doesn’t matter, especially if the giving is truly without strings — if it is not tied to a massive publicity campaign or a product the way cigarette and booze companies support the arts and therefore receive “placement” and “presence” in spots where ads are no longer allowed. Does that taint their arts support? Does the purity of the giving depend on the relative size of the company’s logo in the program and posters? If the logo is too big or occurs too often is the gift suspect? A small mention of who the art supporters are in a program might not seem poisonous, intrusive, like advertising, but logos plastered on all available surfaces surely are ads in disguise, and may even be a cheaper way of putting the company’s name in front of a desired target demographic than paid ads.
And vice versa, can bad deeds sour what was previously a good thing or a person? Does the good that the U.S. stands for (freedom of speech, opportunity, relative equality) become irrelevant in the wake of much recent bad behavior? To much of the world it does. Much of the world has, for decades, despite extensive evidence to the contrary, looked to the U.S. as an example. An imperfect but good-intentioned exemplar of those noble values. An example of the reachable good life and possibilities. Now, with the behavior of the Bush regime continuing unabated, the world has revised its opinion. Those values now seem merely a smokescreen, hype, and bullshit hiding less noble intentions. Now it is as if those noble values might never have been part of the U.S. program at all.
In fact, it’s possible that now those very noble ideals have been tainted, and have become suspect.
But what I really suspect is that there is no score card and that the seeming effort to balance bad deeds by good ones is pure spin. They exist independently and without any connection to one another, and good and evil are imaginary concepts and what really exists is a scale of morality based on something else, something not based on our intellectual constructs.