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Das Capital(ista): Carlos Slim

24 January 2011

He didn’t quite say “From each according to his ability…” but Carlos Slim, during an interview by  Michelle Caruso-Cabrera of the U.S. cable television network, CNBC, came dang close.  With Bill Gates and Warren Buffet having each given half of their personal income (supposedly) to charity, Caruso-Cabrera wondered why Slim has not.

“As employers, we help resolve social problems.  But by fighting poverty, not through charity.”

He explained that giving money to charity gives companies a huge tax deduction.  Not paying taxes means less money for the government to promote development.

“It would be a huge mistake for a company like Microsoft, the world’s leading technology firm, to be sold by it’s founders to finance charities.  They should not. It is more important to continue managing the company. “

I suppose one could get into sterile arguments over whether or not Gates’ and Buffet’s (or Slim’s) actions are based in altruism or egoism.  Coupled with what he said about investing in his own country (he thinks it’s foolish to let the temporary violence scare away investments, and he has no intention of leaving Mexico), what seems to come across is something else:  Mexican.

The U.S. media became interested in Slim not just because of the northern obsession with rankings and nationalism which seem to create a problem for them when a Mexican outranks  U.S. citizens on that probably inaccurate “Forbes” list, but also because Slim has been  aggressively seeking investments in the United States.

Sure, Slim might be finishing Marx’s dictum “… and too each according to his greed,” but it strikes me that Slim, in his own way, is exploiting the exploiters.  I wouldn’t play poker against Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet, or Carlos Slim.  Gates and Buffet, the U.S. based billionaires, have — for whatever reason — decided to fold.  Carlos Slim, the Mexican, is still in the game… and either he wants to up the ante here, or he’s bluffing.  Either way, he’s looking to expatriate  money into Mexico.  Or, maybe repatriate.

There’s no getting around the fact that neither Bill Gates, nor Warren Buffet, would have become so rich had they not been citizens of a country whose own prosperity largely rests on exploiting the resources of other nations, especially Latin American ones… especially Mexico.  There’s no way to put a dollar amount on the value of, say, Mexican metals to the computer industry, let alone the value of Mexican labor, low cost oil and agricultural products that freed up both capital resources (and gave people the leisure time to use computers) that were instrumental to Microsoft’s success.  But, I will bet that whatever the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “donates” to Mexicans, it won’t make us even.

The world is not that simple.  But, Slim — earning money through investments in the United States while continuing to reside in Mexico (and pay Mexican taxes) — is, in a very real way, “exploiting” the exploiter.  And while it would be naïve to pretend that very rich people like Carlos Slim (and major companies like his Grupo Carso) don’t have a hand in setting the social and political agenda in this country, he admits (and accepts) the Mexican state’s right to allocate money he earns and others earn in Mexico as the State sees fit.

From Slim, according to his ability to make gobs of money.  To the Mexican state, according to its tax laws.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. otto permalink
    24 January 2011 7:14 am

    A good note, RG.

  2. Jose Garcia permalink
    24 January 2011 8:05 am

    I don’t like this guy Carlos Slim. Particularly because of his connections with the Carlos Di Gortari. If it wasn’t for the former Mexican president this guy would not be as rich as he is now. Carlos Slim bought Telmex from Carlos Salinas’s government, only after Slim was able to bring other foreign investors in to the deal. Now this seems very suspicious to me because you know that there had to been other investors (weather foreign or Mexican) that were ready to buy Telmex, or at least parts of Telmex throughout the country.

    http://www.zurdasiniestra.org/2007/08/28/como-se-hace-rico-carlos-slim-a-costa-nuestra/
    http://247wallst.com/2009/01/20/carlos-slim-an/

    • Jorge Arturo permalink
      24 January 2011 8:33 pm

      @José: The controversy of how Slim got Telmex has nothing to do with foreign investment, actually all of the bidders had foreign investment present. He (Slim) actually did offer more than the others for Telmex, the controversy arises because he offer to pay in a 5 year period, giving annual payments, so, he actually paid for Telmex using money earn by Telmex. That is the controversy. About connections, I really think is naive to believe that rich individuals don’t have connections with politicians and the current president, they are rich, they work for their interests, just like the rich person in a small town is probably best friend with the mayor in turn.

      I do like this guy, he is very smart, he is trully a business man, and we need more like him in Mexico, the problem is that he is one of a kind, He owns a huge variety of companies and factories, not just Telmex, all of his companies are traded in the BMV which is good, how many times he remember a great mexican company that when the owner died the sons distroyed just for the money, or many local empires that never grow because the owner uses it as a personal ATM.

      Of course I would love to have lower rates in Telmex and Telcel, but so far the service is far better compared to what was Telmex before him.

      Hopefully all his companies will survive him and grow independently, creating even more companies and conglomarates and so continue to have mexican based global companies.

  3. El Chismoso permalink
    25 January 2011 4:18 am

    There’s no getting around the fact that neither Bill Gates, nor Warren Buffet, would have become so rich had they not been citizens of a country whose own prosperity largely rests on exploiting the resources of other nations, especially Latin American ones… especially Mexico.

    ******************

    On’t forget how Bill Gates made millions by exploiting his mexican maid.

  4. Fred permalink
    26 January 2011 9:38 am

    Gates and Buffet are classic examples of do as I say. Neither one has the authority nor the moral right to preach generosity. They should simply do what they wish within the laws of the US. Slim, on the other hand, does call their bluff and states the obvious: business should focus on business because that’s where the jobs come from. You are correct in identifying an implicit recognition of the obligation to pay taxes and let government, for all of it faults, manage social resources. Contrary to most US business, Slim remains a fiercely dedicated Mexican national who consistently reinvests in Mexico.

    BTW Jose – learn how to spell the president’s name. No es italiano, es Mexicano.

    • Jose Garcia permalink
      26 January 2011 10:57 am

      Mira fred, tu quien chingados eres para decir me de mi ortofrafia. Si lo escribi asi, fue por el “spell check” que tengo en la computadora. By the way “fred”, if you care about grammer so much, dont use “btw” instead write: by the way. Y tu Jorge, it does’nt matter what you think the controversy on how he became rich is, the fact of the matter is that this guy became rich in so many unethical ways; what you mentioned in your post is just a few.

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