The Times of London reports that Bill Gates has come to the defense of Google, which announced it would join MSN and Yahoo! in censoring its Chinse search results:
Bill Gates... argued that state censorship was no reason for technology companies not to do business in China.
The richest man in the world told delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos that he thought the internet "is contributing to Chinese political engagement" as "access to the outside world is preventing more censorship".
On the same day he did another good deed for mankind for which I continue to admire Gates, contributing $900 million toward a cure to tuberculosis, he followed the example of many rich men and defended his shortcomings with promises of advances for the masses in exchange for tolerance of business collusion with abusive governments.
Progress is a process of negotiation between the past and future, there's no doubt about that. But abetting a tyranny is always wrong, no matter how you dress it. Bill Gates can say this today, but he isn't doing any favors for the people in China who will suffer today because of the censorship he condones.
A teenage Chinese girl seeking information about birth control won't find the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnance site on Google (though she will find it on Yahoo! and MSN), but she may get a cure to tuberculosis in exchange. That's a calculus of justice that Gates isn't entitled to judge, because those decisions should be up to the individual, not the companies purporting to offer her access to the world's knowledge.