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Bill Gates finally got a Harvard degree yesterday, about 30 years after he dropped out to go fritter away his time playing with computer code. He also got the chance to exhort this year's graduates to work toward the greater good, applying their education and talents to solving some of the toughest social and economic problems in the world. Use your "power in the market and voice in the system," he told the Harvard Class of '07, to make a positive difference:
We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism - if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. We also can press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that better reflect the values of the people who pay the taxes.
If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world.
According to a TIME Magazine interview with Gates about the commencement address, an example of making the market work is the idea of an Advance Market Commitment to accelerate R&D for a vaccine against diseases that affect the developing world. "That's the kind of idea," TIME quotes Gates as saying about AMCs. "It's about using competition and market incentives but directing it the right way."
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.