Keeping People Alive So They Can Buy More Stuff

from the philanthropy-for-its-own-sake dept

In a post earlier this week on the $100 laptop for developing countries, Mike wondered if the money its sponsors were pouring into it was in vain, since the market seems to be driving the cost of laptops down pretty low on its own. In any case, in the original article, Rupert Murdoch characterized News Corp.’s support of the project as “a good pro bono thing to do”. Whether or not it has a big effect, at least the company seems to be doing something for the sake of doing something good. But perhaps not every company (surprise, surprise) is quite so altruistic: a Motorola exec told a group of investors that the company supports the (PRODUCT) RED initiative, which helps buy AIDS medication for people in Africa, because people who don’t die “can be future customers”. Certainly, business is business, but the exec’s justification for doing something good just because it could keep some people alive so they can buy more of the company’s stuff seems pretty cold.

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Comments on “Keeping People Alive So They Can Buy More Stuff”

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Neal says:

Helping keep people alive

Not on the primary topic but since you mentioned developing countries: We were watching the news the other day and were treated to a story on counterfeit merchandise. In that story they showed a HUGE landfill full of seized goods (mostly clothing) which were to be destroyed.

Isn’t it sad that businesses and our government will go through so much trouble to collect these items only to destroy them. Why not do something intelligent and humane and get a little goodwill publicity for it too – spray/splatter a permanent dye on the clothing goods to eliminate their counterfeit value, crate them all up, and ship them to needy people in other countries.

Krum says:

Another sign of Motorola's greed...

So I tried to get a RED RAZR to help out the cause and of course, show off that I helped out by flashing my RED RAZR around. But, Motorola only has it available for Sprint customers. If you really wanted to help people wouldn’t you make the handset available for ANY provider? Even if a GSM one is released, I won’t be buying one.

Charles Griswold (user link) says:


Certainly, business is business, but the exec’s justification for doing something good just because it could keep some people alive so they can buy more of the company’s stuff seems pretty cold.

Yes, it does. On the other hand, he was talking to investors, who may have been demanding justification for the company’s altruistic behavior.

/devil’s advocate

Peter Nelson says:

That's what a company's supposed to do

Actually no – that’s ALL that a company is supposed to do. They shouldn’t be giving money away – they shouldn’t be focusing on public ills. Their responsibility is to their shareholders, and nowhere else. If people want to help others – that’s great, but it’s for people to do – not publicly held entities. So any action they take needs to be one they can attribute to helping the bottom line, or they should be fired… and their shareholders will hold them to that.

Someone says:

Come on people.

Altruism and capitalism are mutually exclusive motivations. The idea that the two philosophies can produce the same utilitarian upshot is somethings that ought to be encouraged.

Motorola, and all companies, are entities that exist to make money, nothing else. There only concerns are naturally about the result of their actions (i.e. how much they can make). If they can be encouraged to think that consumers will prefer a company because they do good (from a utilitarian viewpoint), then they should be, no matter the company’s motivation.

It may seem cold, but that shouldn’t matter. If spun right it could seem cold to send people into burning buildings, risking their lives to rescue people. From another perspective, do you really believe that no one who came up with the policy cared that they were helping AIDS victims? This was surely just the right spin for the shareholders (and I sincerely hope it pays off for them.

I just wish drugs companies would take a similar standpoint, that if they hep Africans with AIDS now, maybe in a future African economy more people will become old enough and wealthy enough to buy Viagra from them.

Frink says:

Re: Re: Come on people.

“The Swiss Cheese Monster” said “The drug companies do a lot to help the entire world with AIDS.”

Yes, they do, at my expense. I am disabled and in poor health and my drugs last year cost over $11,000. Some of the pills I need are $11 apiece. The drug companies can treat AIDS for free but here at home (my home in the USA) they can overcharge the elderly and disabled into poverty and hunger.

Sorry I forgot to thank those drug companies. My bad.

Someone says:


OK, were a little OT here but what the hey. The drugs companies do indeed produce drugs that help people with AIDS, and no matter where in the world you are and no matter how rich or poor, you can’t be treated if the treatment doesn’t exist. Indeed I am sure that many or most of the people at such companies are driven by the prospect of curing disease and pushing the boundaries of knowledge, not just making money.

Perhaps instead of saying ‘if they help Africans,’ I should have said ‘if they do more to help Africans.’ my suggestion is still valid.

However It must be worthy of consideration that there are companies in the world prepared to provide AIDS drugs at cost, but cannot do so because the methods they would use are patented by US drugs companies, and If they breach the patents, the US – under pressure from the drugs companies – has threatened trade sanctions.

I am aware of the counter argument to this that patents encourage development because companies won’t develop in an area where they cannot protect said developments from competitors.

Neither point of view is without its merits, and neither is without its drawbacks.

Oh, and just because propaganda is overwhelming doesn’t mean it can’t have some basis in truth.

Bob says:

Why should we help ANY Africans, or any other country for that matter. They got themselves into the hole they are in let them get themselves out of it!!. Take care of our own first so we dont have to pay 10k a year for drugs when we are old. Not to mention the homeless people we have here. Help ourselves and the hell with other countries

James Stevens says:

Re: Keeping Them Alive

I concur AIDS (analy injected death spit) my neighbor says. The way the survival of the fittest works is working.If the land or the ecosystem cannot support life then nature takes its course.What did we do in the centuries past? life just went about its own business and the weak did not survive only the strong which made a strong healthty population of human beings

Ezekial says:

You tell em Bob, Im sick and tired of seeing our money go overseas when there are so many poeple here in the USA that need it. Just because we fought so hard over the last 300 years to have a country as great as this doesnt mean we should take care of everyone else. Let the other countries fight for their freedom like we did and in 300 years they will be better off.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well for one this great country as you put it has several issues that are just as bad and sometimes worse than other country’s issues.

For two, this is about a corporation. Corporations are global. Unless you bought something from them, your money isn’t going off anywhere. Also the US does sometimes help other countries, but this help is either selling them stuff a little cheaper than usual (usually weapons, and that isn’t a boo goverment statement. It’s the truth. Just look at Israel in the 1980’s and early 90’s) or by having them pay (whether its via money or via letting us build an airbase on their soil and make it operate under US law) for manpower, usually army engineers or general contractors.

To be honest, your statement is fairly ignorant and typical of RAWR THE USA IS NUMBER ONEZORZ types. The US was number one, and has been a great country, and hopfully always will be. Stupid stuff like what Bush has been doing (eg not playing nice with the other children and general asshattery) and then while he is messing everything up voting to elect him again is why this country is going downhill. I’m sure we have you to thank . . .

Back to the topic. Everyone else got it right. It may seem ‘cold’ but they are a corporation and they have no responsiblitiy except to people’s pockets. The fact they found an excuse to help a crisis is pretty cool. Hopfully this works and they help other problems.

Lil'bit says:

I happen to agree with P Nelson (#7) – companies exist to make money, period. However, he and I are on a collision course with good old Bob and Ezekial(#13 and #14).

Once we acknowledge that corps exist to make money and then quit helping other countries out – let ’em get themselves out of it and quit sending our money to help other people – and we DO start helping our own people first, well, Bob and Ezekial are going to have to fork out taxes to pay for it. Sure we will save some money by not donating overseas, but the loss in funding to charitable orgs from corp interests will have to be made up somewhere – the needy will still be needy.

In other words, international aid is a teeny tiny portion of the US budget and corporations donate billions, whatever the reasons for doing so. The pathetic part is how slavish our politicians are and how they will prove it by ignoring citizen’s calls for universal health care of some kind. Once more major corporations join GM and call for the govt to step in and “level the playing field” – watch how quickly action is taken.

Ed the Editor (user link) says:

fire the motorola guy!

Unfortunately his theory of keeping Africans alive so they can consume his products longer is flawed, and he should resign. The bulk of the developing World’s wealth creation is actually going to be in India and China. Oops, wrong continent!

“All” the Motorola guys will achieve is an increase in the surviving Africans’ economic misery. Still, the Africans can read Moto billboards in the mega cities and keep on dreaming, just like Moto shareholders.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Libertarian Crap

It’s not “libertarian crap” stating that businesses operate for profit; thats just life, and what has, over the last couple hundred years, allowed we American’s to prosper so well. Especially compared to the growth rate of socialist Europe.

Communities, as you point out, on the other hand, I can agree with. ‘Communities’ have a legitimate reason to help for the sake of helping, when possible.

But corporate money ill-spent on something with minimal long-term payoff means lower job and wage growth for us. With fewer jobs and less income, that’s just less spare capacity we have in the future to help when we want.

Again, don’t know where “libertarian crap” came from! Try not falling asleep in college macro or micro.

Raaju (user link) says:


My name is Raju frm India i was a business man (realestate)i had a big lose in my business i lose ny house ,office and what all i had ,I feel sorry to ask help like this ,when I was in good stage i also had charitible trust i helped lot of poor &needy people .now i dont have anything with me ,i want start business ,can u pls help me for that, a small amount will give a life for a family sir pls think sir .in my profit 35 % i am ready to give to people who need. .sir pls help 5000 usd and give me & my family a life pls.
Awaiting for your reply
Thanking you

Nb: Treat my mail as a charity and help me and my family . I hope your kindness will help us.Thanking you.

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