> Skip to content
  • Published: 21 November 2023
  • ISBN: 9780241609477
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 496
  • RRP: $42.00

The Bill Gates Problem

Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire




A critical look at how Bill Gates uses his wealth and power through the Gates Foundation to advance his own agenda and erode democratic institutions in the process.

How much money should one man be allowed to amass? Would your answer change if you knew he was a saint?

From greedy to generous, from cold- to kind-hearted, from rogue to hero, Bill Gates is an extraordinarily complex public figure. Yet over the last decade, we've reduced him to a flat caricature - a sweater-wearing, avuncular, well-meaning billionaire, who is adamantly giving away all of his money through the Gates Foundation in order to improve the lives of others.

This simplistic portrait perilously ignores the political influence that Gates has acquired through his charitable work, and the controversial ways through which he utilises it. We might like to think of the Foundation as an innocent charity giving away money, collaborating with stakeholders, and listening to the desires of the populations it hopes to help, but is that how it works in practice? The charity internally sets a policy agenda for how to fix the world - based apparently on one man's worldview - then arguably seeks to impose this vision onto the developing world by funding groups that align with it.

Combining rich storytelling and ground-breaking reporting, The Bill Gates Problem offers readers a provocative and timely counter-narrative about one of the world's most widely recognized individuals - a true global celebrity with a truly global audience. But more than that, this book speaks to a vital political question around economic inequality and the erosion of democratic institutions - why should the super-rich be able to transform their wealth into political power, and just how far can they go?

  • Published: 21 November 2023
  • ISBN: 9780241609477
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 496
  • RRP: $42.00

Praise for The Bill Gates Problem

Tim Schwab has written the definitive critique of Bill Gates as bully-philanthropist. Schwab uses the case of Gates to tell a compelling and carefully researched story that raises disturbing questions about the lack of accountability of power-philanthropy.

Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor, The American Prospect

This is not the story of one bad man, so much as a demonstration of the inability for anyone-no matter how smart or rich-to solve the world's problems from the top down with money and technology.

Douglas Rushkoff, author of Survival of the Richest

In this incisive and penetrating book, Schwab dares to confront a question society has long ignored: should a secretive, unaccountable billionaire dictate policy in public health, education, and science? Fearlessly rendered and much-needed.

Sonia Shah, author of The Next Great Migration

Tim Schwab follows the money to expose what happens when one man-however intelligent or well-intentioned-amasses so much wealth and so much power, he can literally dictate to governments around the world. With great skill-and given the range of Bill Gates's influence, considerable courage-Schwab pulls back the curtain to deliver a classic of muckraking journalism.

D. D. Guttenplan, editor, The Nation

Investigative journalism with a fierce polemical edge … Nobody who comes away from reading The Bill Gates Problem will look at him in the same way.

The Times

A tale of frustration and even rage at the culture of secrecy and often incompetence inside Gates’s philanthropic world, it is also strangely heartening.

New Statesman

An extraordinary and detailed work of investigative journalism into an underexplored nexus of influence in global affairs.

The Telegraph

[An] excellent exposé of hyper-billionaire ‘myths’

Nature