I have the utmost respect and admiration for Warren Buffett. He has also made me quite a bit of money through Berkshire Hathaway so I owe him a lot. What I’ve never been able to understand are his views on solving society’s ills.
In a recent Time Magazine article titled Warren Buffett Shares the Secrets to Wealth in America, the Chairman provides a quick summary of how GDP growth translates to real per capita GDP. In other words, the added wealth accrued by each and every citizen has translated into a lifestyle no one could have imagined.
You would think this would be the end of the article since he’s once again proven that the American Dream is an engine that has provided unbelievable and sustainable economic growth and will continue to do so. However, Mr. Buffett goes on to say:
The market system, however, has also left many people hopelessly behind, particularly as it has become ever more specialized. These devastating side effects can be ameliorated: a rich family takes care of all its children, not just those with talents valued by the marketplace.
In the years of growth that certainly lie ahead, I have no doubt that America can both deliver riches to many and a decent life to all. We must not settle for less.
My parents were anything but rich but I’m pretty sure if I’d said “Dad, Mr. Buffett thinks you should care for me since I don’t have any talents valued by the marketplace,” he would have smacked me alongside the head and said “Get a freaking job, loser!” Fortunately, he didn’t have to do that.
Warren Buffett has pledged to give away 99% of his wealth to philanthropic causes. Approximately 83% of that will go to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and much of the rest will be distributed to the foundations of his children. There is no doubt that Mr. Buffett puts his money where his mouth is. He has also established the Giving Pledge where billionaires have promised to give away at least half of their wealth to philanthropic causes. That’s terrific and laudable to say the least!
My concern, Mr. Buffett, is that many of the organizations you would give your money to do not have the same mentality of a capitalist where measurable goals are a principle requirement. It’s easy to measure financial goals but much more difficult to measure success of philanthropic goals. In my mind, there is way too much “even if we’re wrong, we were right to try” and the trying won’t stop until all the money has run out. Even then there will be calls for more money because we didn’t try hard enough on something that by any objective measure is failing.
On the other hand, Mr. Chairman, I agree with you that —
It’s an empty promise, equality of opportunity, if you live in a place that’s crime-ridden and all you know is survival and you have the wrong models around you.
What we have shown over and over again is that giving things to poor people has only succeeded in establishing a permanent underclass. It’s a shame that you were born with the Democrat gene since the solid ideas of Dr. Ben Carson and his Envision Centers are worthy of your attention and support.
My sincere hope is that your legacy won’t be “he made a whole lot of money and then gave it all away to people who meant well but accomplished nothing.”