* Originally posted in Ricochet.com

I grew up in India. During my childhood, it was still a protectionist country. It was poor then; more so than it is now – if that’s even possible.

My grandfather owned a Fiat. It looked like a car from the 1940s. We had an Indian Car company – Ambassador – which made little replicas of Fiats from that era. No foreign car makers were allowed in those days in India. So Ambassador continued making Forties-looking cars well into the 1980s. There was no Coca Cola in India, there was just a local brand called “Thumbs Up!” (yes, with the exclamation). I could go into the details of the local chalky toothpaste and other products, but I will spare you the details.

Then came the 1980s, where India started opening up to foreign competition. Two icons made a huge impact on the country.

The first one was Mother Teresa. Selfless and merciful, she spent her entire life devoted to taking care of the poor and the sick. She personally helped thousands. She increased awareness of HIV/AIDS. She brought foreign aid to India. She was a truly noble woman who sacrificed her life helping other people.

The second is Bill Gates. Bill Gates could probably care less about India or Indians. But he revolutionized the world by pulling personal computer out of the hobby market and into every small business, and by making software profitable. How did he help the Indians? Well, for one, we discovered that, for some odd reason, we are good at IT. India could produce educated, English-speaking engineers by the thousands and help multinational companies run their business for much cheaper than the West.

Suddenly, the Indian standard of living rose. No one buys Ambassadors anymore. Coca Cola is readily available and every multinational company wants a piece of Indian consumer business.  Tata is now manufacturing the cheapest car in the world – the Nano. Because every Indian deserves a car.

So the question I have is – who helped India more?  Mother Teresa or Bill Gates?

One was a deliberate, sacrificial, noble, intentional life spent in the service of fellow human beings. The other was a mostly selfish venture to increase value and self-worth, that ended up lifting the standards of not only Indians but the entire world; indeed, it ended up adding value and self-worth for most of the humans alive today.