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The age of the benevolent capitalist is gone | Letters

Bill Gates speaks at Gates Foundation Goalkeepers event in New York.
Bill Gates speaks at Gates Foundation Goalkeepers event in New York. Photograph: Elizabeth Shafiroff/Reuters

My admirable and turbulent priest Giles Fraser (Loose canon, 6 October) concludes that “capitalism is not magic, but exploitative to its core”, as is its principle that “I only get extremely rich if you get a little bit richer too”. Max Weber got it dead right for certain eras in the past, when Calvinistic merchants made money to give it to others, often most of it, frequently living frugally as circumstances permitted to do so (the Protestant work ethic). As a Calvinist country, Scotland was full of such people, for example the Cowans of Penicuik, 19th-century paper manufacturers, or the Coats and Clarks, thread magnates, or Peter Brough of Paisley, whose charitable funds have assisted generations over centuries. England had its Cadburys and Lord Leverhulme, with similar outcomes. They were capitalists too, but they carried it out for others. It’s still possible to do that, if capitalists want. Unfortunately, it seems that few of them have kindred motivations today, although Bill Gates does pretty well.
Professor Sam McKinstry
Gartcosh, Lanarkshire

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This article titled "The age of the benevolent capitalist is gone" was written by Letters, for The Guardian on Tuesday 10 October 2017 05.44pm


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