I remember attending a party once where most people did not know who I was and where I worked at the time (a contractor for Microsoft). I was just sort of hanging out and listening (that’s really active for me, often I just find a place to take a nap if I have to go to a party). This woman started talking about how selfish rich people are and how they should be made to be more generous. “So”, I asked, “What is your source of data for the claim that rich people are selfish?” I know, that was a below the belt punch on a defenseless communist as per the following:
No one has the right to destroy another person’s belief by demanding empirical evidence.
Ann Landers, nationally syndicated advice columnist and Director of Handgun Control, Inc.
But being the scientist/engineer and generally socially clueless type I asked anyway. The response was, “Do you have any evidence they are not?” That was actually a fairly decent response–had I not been working at Microsoft for several years and knew many multi-millionaires. Other people could have mentioned numerous famous foundations and philanthropists but I chose to give examples I had witnessed. I told of going to Denny’s in Bellevue, a short distance from Microsoft, with other people form Microsoft for coffee and desert. We hung around for an hour or two talking, sipping our drinks, and nibbling on our pies and cakes. As we left we tossed money on the table to cover our bill and a tip. There was probably six or seven people but the excess money for the tip was over $60. No one cared if they got change for the $20 they tossed on the table. That was common whenever I went out for meals with “rich people” from Microsoft–a $20 bill WAS change to them. I further told the clueless commie that the head of my favorite charity (I didn’t tell her SAF was my favorite at the time) came in to talk to a club I belonged to at Microsoft (the Microsoft Gun Club) and told us that every year the largest single donation they received was from Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft matches employee donations dollar for dollar to qualified 501(C)(3) organizations if you do the proper paperwork. Those “rich selfish Microsoft employees” and their greedy corporation donations made a huge difference to that charitable organization. In my several years of being around “rich people” I didn’t know a single person I would have considered selfish. I even knew one manager who offered to pay for one of his employee’s sex change operation out of his own pocket (in return he wanted the testicles in a jar to put on his desk–but that’s another story I didn’t tell her). In short, I had a very limited sample of probably 50 to 100 people in one geographical location at one company, but every bit of data I had contradicted her claim. She didn’t have anything to offer and we changed subject–I wasn’t so clueless that I pushed the issue with her.
Ry, over at Mindless Bit Spew, is currently working at Microsoft and today reports on the activities of just one Microsoft private pilot who got time off from work to help with Katrina relief efforts. Here is the first paragraph of his story published in a newsgroup internal to Microsoft:
Watching the destruction of Hurricane Katrina & the effect it was having on people’s lives, I wanted to help somehow. Our neighborhood organized a lunch, and we raised $3000 in just a few hours via donations by selling sandwiches to people simply driving buy. The company that I work at building a game called Flight Simulator, Microsoft Corporation, matched the donation. Wow, I was very impressed how people rallied and came together to support individuals thousands of miles away. Although I thought this effort on my neighborhoods part was awesome, I wanted to contribute more directly to the relief effort. I searched online for a way to contribute my airplane to fly people & supplies to the disaster stricken area.
People that bash capitalism need some exposure to reality. Personally I know of no better place than what you see at Microsoft. They’ve done some things wrong but the scales are so heavily weighted on the positive side you have to be actively avoiding reality to claim socialism/communism/fascism or whatever government scheme you might imagine is a “better way”.