John Paulson’s contribution of 400 million dollars to the Harvard Engineering Department has been greeted with a chorus of criticism, mostly from the left. The complaint is that he should have given the money to the poor instead. Malcolm Gladwell’s tweet is representative: “It came down to helping the poor or giving the world’s richest university $400 mil it doesn’t need. Wise choice John!”
If I had 400 million to contribute, I might well have directed elsewhere myself. But Paulson’s contribution is a sensible idea. The anger from the left reflects its inability to understand that in the long run technology allied to markets is likely to help the poor more than direct aid.
Engineering departments are the locus of modern alchemy where basic science is turned into the technology that produces gold in the modern world.