top of page

Warren Buffett vs. Charlie Munger - Clash of Perspectives on America's Future! | BRK 2023



[Transcript]

AUDIENCE MEMBER

Time to time you have reminded us to not bet against America. What do you think are the most important things for U.S. to remain strong? On the risk side, if the strength of the country’s undermined, what could be the reasons?


WARREN BUFFETT

Well, we’ve had a lot of tests. I mean, we’re such a young country. You know, when you think about Japan and you think about the United States, it’s just incredible how new we are to the block. I mean, you know, what are we? 234 (246) years old since we started.


That’s nothing. I mean, you know, Charlie and I combined, we’ve lived two thirds the life of the country. (Laughter) I mean, we’ve been tested at 46 national elections. And we made some bad choices. And we’ve had a civil war. I mean, so the country has had enormous advantages though in some way.


Because we started with one half of 1% of the world’s population in 1790. And we now have something close to 25% of the world’s GDP. And it wasn’t because we had some incredible advantage in terms of the land. It was nice to have two oceans on each side back when people tried to rule the world by ruling the waves.


You know, and we’ve had good neighbors in Canada and Mexico. But it’s a miracle. And you say, “How do we keep the good parts of the system?” Well, culling out our obvious defects. And we do it in a very herky-jerky manner. But net, the United States is a better place to live than it was when I was born by a huge factor.


I mean, I just got a root canal a week ago. And I was just thinking, “I don’t know who invented Novocaine, but I’m for him.” You know, I mean, (Laugh) but in a million ways. I mean, you can romanticize about the past. But forget it. It has worked. But now we do have an atom bomb and we wish nuclear power —


You know, we wish the atom had never been split. But it has been. And you can’t put it back in the bottle. So, the challenges are huge. You know, my dad was in Congress back in the 1940s. And it looked like a mess then. Although it was unified by the war to some degree.


But it was still very partisan. Now the problem we have, I think, is that partisanship, it seems to me, has moved toward tribalism. And tribalism just doesn’t work as well. I mean, when it gets to tribalism, you don’t even hear the other side. And tribalism can lead to mobs.


I mean, it just flows. I mean, you’ve seen it (UNINTEL). We’ve seen it to a degree here. So, we have to refine in a certain way our democracy as we go along. We deal with the world we live in. But if I still had a choice of any place to be born in the world, I’d want to be born in the United States.


And I’d want to be born today. I mean, it is a better world than we have ever had. And with present-day communications, we can also see much more how terrible it is in many ways. And it’s got problems. When I was born in 1930, there were 2 billion in the world.


And now there’s maybe 7.7 billion and growing. And we went millennia with really no change in population. And of course, we’ve introduced energy in an incredible way into something where we now have 7.7 billion people using way more energy than they did when I was born when there were 2 billion people.


So, it’s an exciting world. It’s a challenging world. And, you know, I don’t know the solutions on things. I do think that we do need to think about different solutions in terms of how we get important problems solves and that we don’t kid ourselves that something magic will happen or that everybody will get together and we’ll all just cheer, and it’ll go away by 2050.


And how well we adapt to that, we will see. I would say so far it doesn’t look very promising. But then I’m sure that when Lincoln looked out at what was going on in the Civil War it didn’t look very promising either. So, I think that the U.S. is capable of doing remarkable things. And I think it wouldn’t surprise me if they do it again. Charlie may —


CHARLIE MUNGER

Well, I’m slightly less optimistic than Warren is. (Laughter) I think the best road ahead to human happiness is to expect less. I think it’s going to get tougher. And I think the solution of having a huge proportion of the young and brilliant people all go into wealth management is a crazy development in terms of its natural consequences for American civilianization. We don’t need as many wealth managers as we have.


WARREN BUFFETT

But Charlie was born on January 1st, 1924. And you’d hate to go back to that, wouldn’t you, Charlie? (Laugh)


CHARLIE MUNGER

Yes, I would. And I like more wealth managers who are just merely reflecting the fact there’s more wealth. But I don’t like everybody going into wealth management. Better go to MIT or something. I think the world’s a little crazy now.


WARREN BUFFETT

Take your choice. (Laugh)


OK, Becky. (Laughter)


~ Please visit the site above for full video of Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting.

 

[YAPSS Takeaway]

"The best road ahead to human happiness is to expect less." ~Charlie Munger

bottom of page