To be fair, government does this all the time. George W. Bush thought his No Child Left Behind program would do wonders for education. It didn’t. Barack Obama said we had to pass his stimulus package to keep unemployment from going over 8%. So it passed, and then unemployment ended up going well over 8% anyway.
That said, I have a slightly different perspective on this topic than a lot of other people. Most solutions to complex problems are normally found through trial and error, which is why I don’t really get mad at either government officials or wealthy people when they decide to pursue some new policy or invest in some new philanthropic program and end up failing to achieve whatever it was they were trying to do.
In the case of Bill Gates, his efforts to improve education may not have worked out the way he hoped they would, but his failures have at least helped trim down the list of potential solutions, which is helpful in its own right. Whether it’s being done by wealthy people or by government, we should be more open to experimenting with new ideas, IMO. Even when those ideas fail, they still benefit us in the sense that failure is a good teaching tool. The more we learn from our mistakes, the closer we get to fixing the original problem.
Plus, the dude has just done a whole lot of other great things w/ his money. I personally think his foundation’s WASH program (water, sanitation and hygiene) will prove to be enormously important in the years to come as the impact of global climate change becomes more and more severe.