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Melinda Gates: Capitalism needs work, but it beats socialism and the US is 'lucky' to have it

Key Points
  • Melinda Gates, in an interview with CNBC's Becky Quick, rejects dismantling capitalism and says she'd rather live in a capitalistic society than under socialism.
  • Her comments come as the socialism versus capitalism debate rages in America ahead of an election season in which several Democratic candidates have called for sweeping economic changes.
  • "I think when we stop and think of what we have from a capitalistic society, we have to remember what we actually have," she says.
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Melinda Gates on technology, capitalism and her 'Moment of Lift'

Capitalism vs. socialism? For Melinda Gates, the choice is simple.

"What I know to be true is I would far rather live in a capitalistic society than a socialist society," Gates said in an interview with CNBC's Becky Quick that aired on "Squawk Box " on Wednesday. "I think when we stop and think of what we have from a capitalistic society, we have to remember what we actually have."

Gates' comments come as the American political system is embroiled in a debate about socialism and capitalism. Several Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates have called for sweeping changes to a system they say is responsible for growing inequality and division within the country. President Donald Trump has accused them of embracing socialism, which he says would lead to economic ruin in the U.S.

Without mentioning the political debate, Gates, who co-chairs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, defended the U.S. system. Yet she also acknowledged the need to address the gaps between the rich and the poor.

Gates also said U.S. residents are "lucky," and that people living in developing countries "want to live in these types of capitalistic societies."

Several American billionaires have argued that the modern version of capitalism isn't working. Wealthy business leaders such as Warren Buffett, Jamie Dimon, Ray Dalio and Bill Gates have called for fixes to widening economic inequality and the lack of public education funding. Some are advocating for public-private partnerships and higher taxes on the wealthy to address widespread income inequality.

These business leaders have also condemned arguments for socialism. Dimon, CEO of J.P. Morgan, told shareholders this month that socialism "inevitably produces stagnation, corruption and often worse," but acknowledged there are flaws with capitalism and that it should be combined with a strong social safety net.

In her CNBC interview, Gates called for proper government regulation and a solid tax system to address capitalism's gaps.

"I think we all do better as a globe when countries can grow from low, to middle income, to high income," she said. "And so I think we need to look at our system and say, 'OK, what are the great things about it? And what are the things that, at this point in time, we need to adjust and change?'"

Despite these issues, she said, American capitalism is the envy of much of the world.

"When I go to places like Malawi or Tanzania or Senegal, they say they all want to live in America," Gates said. "We are lucky to live here. They want to live in these types of capitalistic societies. And we just need to tune it and get it right."