Insights on obscene wealth from Chairman Bill (Gates)

The Microsoft co-founder waxes on what it's like to be a billionaire (and other stuff)

There's an old saying that "the rich are no different than you and me." Having never tasted wealth, I can only speculate about that statement's accuracy, though in many ways it's clearly a crock.

But Microsoft co-founder, chairman and certified billionaire Bill Gates, the second-wealthiest man in the world (after Warren Buffett) certainly knows a thing or two about being rich.

Gates, who has dedicated his recent years to numerous philanthropic endeavors with his wife, Melinda, spoke on Thursday to students at the University of Washington as "part of a lecture on the future of computing," according to the website Xconomy.

But it wasn't a total geekfest. Questions from students inevitably veered off from straight computer talk to issues such as money, taxes, politics and the eternal "boxers versus briefs" debate.

OK, I made up that last one. Still, I bet if someone had asked about it, Gates would not have ducked the question. The man has strong opinions.

One student asked Gates for advice on how to become insanely wealthy. The bottom line, he said (I'm paraphrasing here), is to be passionate about something, figure out how to do it well and hope it serves a great need in society.

Then Gates went beyond the how of getting rich to the reality of being rich. From Xconomy:

“I can understand wanting to have millions of dollars, because there’s meaningful freedom that comes with that. But once you get much beyond that—you know, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburger. Dick’s has not raised their prices enough,” Gates said to laughs.

Dick's by the way, is a Seattle-area chain of burger joints (that may soon be raising its prices enough).

Gates also said current problems in the U.S. should be addressed in part through a bigger commitment to quality education and the lowering of health care costs.

Wait a minute: This guy's a billionaire capitalist. That sounds like socialist talk! Nah, it couldn't be.

But it is!

“In terms of the very rich, Warren and I—Warren Buffett and I are the two wealthiest Americans— are certainly believing that the rich should be taxed a lot more … and the rich should give away more wealth than they currently do. And we’ve certainly been wiling to speak out about that,” Gates said.

More taxes on the rich?! Giving away wealth?! Get out the rubber bullets, officers. We have an agitator here!

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